Scripture: Lectionary 282.Easter Tuesday. April 10. Acts 2:36-41. Psalm 33:4-5.18-19.20.22. John 20:11-18. Noli me tangere! Do not cling to me.
The Latin Vulgate has the expression Noli Me Tangere, which means “Do not cling, clutch or hold on to me.” Jesus says these words to Mary Magdalene in the apparition to her in St. John’s Gospel in the first ending of it in chapter 20. The appearance takes place near Jerusalem. The Galilee tradition of appearances will take place in chapter 21 in a fishing scene on the Sea or Lake of Galilee or as it sometimes is more accurately called, the Lake of Gennesaret. The appearances do have two locations: Jerusalem and Galilee.
These words of Jesus have been attached to many famous paintings of this scene. We as the readers know this is not a chiding of Jesus, but probably Jesus is telling her that she has a mission ahead of her of being the apostle to the apostles. There is an urgency to make known to the disciples that he is risen from the dead. Her relationship with Jesus will be deepened with this experience of his resurrection. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus with her whole heart and soul; only Jesus’ mother Mary could have loved Jesus more than she did. Pope John XXIII writes, “Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give.” Aquinas tells us that love and goodness are diffusive of one another (Bonum diffusivum sui).
Mary Magdalene realizes this and does whatever Jesus tells her. She is a holy woman who followed Jesus in his active ministry and helped him to be fed and appreciated. Her tears have been shed and now she enters into the new dimension of her mission given to her by the Risen Lord.
We learn from the readings of the Acts that the apostles also have seen the urgency of bringing the Gospel’s Good News to everyone. The speeches of Peter and then of Paul will carry this message throughout this first idyllic history of the Body of Christ, the community we call the Church. There is no clinging to the earthly Jesus; it is Jesus the Anointed One the Christ of faith who is proclaimed, witnessed to, and shared with all others. Peter, Stephen, Philip, John, and Paul will attest to the urgent need for preaching the saving actions of the Paschal Mysteries of Jesus. We recall the great words that are kept alive by most preachers and even the media today: “Yes, God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not be lost may have eternal life.” We all must be born from above (again) through our Baptism and also through our daily commitment of faith in the person of Jesus.
Resurrection is not a devotion in which we cling to the Lord Jesus; it is rather a sharing of who the Risen Lord is with others. This is our mission to witness that Jesus is the Risen Son of God.
Fr. George W.MacRae, S.J., an expert on the Gospel of John, comments on the phrase “Do not cling to me” : “But why does Jesus say, “Do not cling to me” (verse 17)? Among many and quite diverse suggestions one commends itself: Jesus is warning Mary not to try to hold on to the Jesus she knew, for he is returning to the Father, as he said he would. To cling to the earthly Jesus would be tantamount to a faith based on signs, and that is not enough.” Amen. Alleulia.