Do Not Cling to Me

In the resurrection story told in the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene wants Jesus back as she remembers him; failing that, she wants his corpse in a definite place, she wants a grave she can tend. Jesus appears to her—in one of the most devastatingly moving moments of the whole Bible—and her first instinct is to think that yes, he is back as she remembers, yes, she has hold of him after all. He has not disappeared, he has not been taken away to an unknown destination.

But Jesus warns Mary: He is being taken to a destination more unknown than she could imagine—to the Father. From now on, there will be no truthful way of speaking or thinking about him except as the one who lives alongside the source of all things. These simple, abrupt words already contain all the mysteries we celebrate when we say the creeds, when we break the bread of Holy Communion. They tell us that Jesus gives exactly what God gives—life, glory, forgiveness, transfiguration. Through death he has passed into the heart of reality; he has returned where he came from. At the very beginning of John's gospel, we read of the Word of God living "nearest to the Father's heart" from all eternity. He comes to us in the flesh and blood of Jesus and shows the glory, the radiant, solid life, of God pouring out in love. The fullest showing of that love is in his free acceptance of suffering and death. If we are able to accept that this death sets us free once and for all, the glory of the divine life is shared with us. From his place next to the Father's heart, Jesus sends out the gift of the Spirit of Truth, which allows us a share in his own closeness to the Father.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
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