Some think of her in terms of repentance. Repentance from what? Some see her as a woman of easy virtue who later repented after she met Jesus. They associate her with the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and covered them with her kisses and costly perfume (Luke 7:36-50). They say that was the day she repented from her many sins, and Jesus forgave her. Luke (8:1-3) tells us that she had seven demons, and Jesus delivered her from the demons. So some think of her in terms of her deliverance from demonic possessions.
Instead of dwelling on the various speculations about her identity, let us focus on what today’s Gospel passage makes available to us about her. The passage calls her Mary of Magdala. This identification suggests that she was from the ancient Jewish city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, three miles north of Tiberias called Magdala.
The Gospel passage further reveals that she came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark. This gospel account does not mention anyone else with her. What could have made a Jewish woman to be out alone at such early hour while it was still dark? In addition to the darkness, she was going to meet a dead man in the tomb. Resurrection did not seem to be part of her expectation. She had with her, the oil for anointing the dead as part of the last rites or final respect for the dead.
What gave her such courage to be out and about alone that early while it was still dark? It must be the conviction that she found the good in Jesus, she found the Messiah in Jesus, and she found God in Jesus. Nothing could stand in her way, nothing could change her resolve, not even death, not the death of Jesus, and not the possibility of her own untimely death at that scary hour.
It is not so clear at what point she first heard about Jesus and how she began to follow Jesus. But from what we see about her in today’s Gospel passage, it is safe to imagine that when she began following Jesus, some family members and some friends thought she was out of her mind, they probably ridiculed her, but she was ready to stand alone as long as she was standing with God. If she was the woman, who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and covered them with her kisses and perfume, then it is easy to see how the intimidating looks of the Pharisees and the pretentious concern of Judas Iscariot for the poor, could not stop her from all she planned to do for Jesus on that day. She was ready to stand alone as long as she was standing with God.
So, alone with none but God, she tip toes one step after another to the tomb very early in the morning while it is still dark. The hem of her gown soaked with the morning dew, she keeps going; one step after another. Her feet and her sandals wet from her drenched gown, she keeps going; one step after another. Occasionally, she holds her breath and quickly looks behind her because she thinks she can hear some footsteps behind her, but she sees no one. She keeps going, one step after another. What if something bad happens to her? What if some evil spirits decide to attack her? Do you remember those seven demons Jesus chased away from her? What if they hear about the death of Jesus and they decide to launch a fresh attack on her? What if the soldiers guarding the tomb decide to do something bad to her, or even kill her and bury her, who will take the news back home? Well, her conviction about Jesus and her love for Jesus are greater than her fear for her life. So, she keeps going, one step after another. She is ready to stand alone as long as she is standing with God.
Finally, she arrives at the tomb. She had thought death was the worst thing to have happened to Jesus, but now she finds out there is something worse. Oh no, the dead body of Jesus has been stolen. Who did this? They killed Jesus, now they have desecrated his dead body, they have denied him his last rites, his last respect. This is something worse than death!
Guess what! Alleluia, Mary Magdalene is wrong! Nobody stole his body! This is the beginning of the Good News: the tomb is empty! He has risen as he said. Alleluia! Mary Magdalene made this journey alone. She was at the tomb alone. She ran back alone to break the news to the timid men, the timid apostles. Even as the apostles struggled to believe, Mary Magdalene was ready to stand alone, as long as she was standing with God. My dearly beloved in Christ, where were you on Palm Sunday? Were you among those who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!” on that day? Did you spy on him on Spy Wednesday? Did you betray him on Holy Thursday? Did you deny him on Holy Thursday? Did you join the chant of “Crucify him,” or did you run away from him while he was hanging on the cross on Good Friday? Were you too scared of going to anoint his dead body early in the morning on Easter Sunday while it was still dark? No matter the group you belong to, I have good news for you. The tomb is empty. He is no longer in the tomb. He has come out of the tomb to give us another chance to stand with him. He calls us to stand with him even if the whole world rejects him. Are you ready to take advantage of this new opportunity? Will you stand with him even if you are to stand alone?