Jn 20:1-2, 11-18
The problem is: We don’t Remember how God lead us out of Egypt! “Egypt” is the biblical code word for “slavery”, “sin”, “alienation”, “oppression”.
Mary Magdalene knew how Jesus freed her from Egypt! The Gospels say that she had been possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9) and that subsequently she and some other similarly healed women accompanied him and the Twelve and provided for them out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3). Despite centuries of identification of Mary with prostitutes, public sinners, etc, there is no specific biblical judgment that she was or was not a sinner. She just had trouble shaking a bad reputation.
Nevertheless, Jesus drove seven demons out of her! “Seven” is a biblical symbol for “fullness”, “perfection”, “completeness”. Whatever it was that bound her was taken away by the power of God. Jesus perfectly cleansed her from the demons!
Mary did not focus on what had been, or the reputation that followed her! Her only response was unconditional love. She followed Jesus wherever he went – even to the Cross and to his tomb… She was faithful even beyond his death - and so was Jesus! If we remembered how Jesus freed us- personally, specifically, from what had bound us, perhaps we too would follow like Mary.
Our first reading names God as “jealous”. Commentators suggest “passionate” would be a better translation. God is saying to us, “I brought you out from Egypt, therefore I am passionate about our relationship – i.e. I will work at it. And so must you!”
The commandments which are presented to us are simply the guidelines for living within the historical relationship of love which God has initiated with us. Did you notice that many of the commandments have reasons attached? And that for the others one can intuit the reason for the commandment in terms of our love relationship with God?
One’s relationship with God is never just about oneself and God. We are in this relationship as members of his family, his “people”. The sinner is never alone. S/he is always a member of a community. Our sin always affects our community. And our community is always multigenerational. So our sin affects multiple generations.
On the other hand, our loyalty to our friendship with God is powerful enough to transcend time and affect generations for time unimaginably beyond (and before?) our own.
Think about it!
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., Retreat Director, Bishop Molloy Retreat House, www.bishopmolloy.org