I recently read an article about Pope Francis where the writer talked about the importance of understanding his style of leadership, way of speaking and particular vocabulary. What stands out for me when I think of Pope Francis is his stress on the culture of encounter. Pope Francis wants us to meet people where they are, not where we would like them to be.
It’s possible to see the whole of our salvation history through the prism of encounter. In our biblical imaginations we hold the images of Adam and Eve who are afraid of that encounter and hide themselves, Abraham who encounters God as he look at the stars of the night, Sarah who listens at the opening of the tent and hears God’s promise for her, and so many more. Each encounter involves a person taking one step nearer to the God who holds the promise of all Life.
Mary Magdalene too must take that one step closer to Jesus. Making her way to the tomb in darkness, she’s drawn by the power of every moment of encounter that she has ever had with Jesus. It might well have been as dawn was breaking that Jesus meets her. He takes the initiative. Then she must respond too.
I am always struck by the very human nature of this encounter. Jesus says her name and in that moment Mary is returned to herself. There are no angels or flashes of light, just one person recognising another. Raymond Brown sees in this moment an echo of the Good Shepherd in John 10:
‘She is one of those of whom Jesus said “I know my sheep and mine know me.” ‘
There are many ways for us to come to faith. Mary Magdalene shows us the way of encounter.
Imagine Jesus calling you by name. How do you respond?