A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Can’t touch this

'Noli me tangere' by Antonio Raggi (design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini) SS. Domenico e Sisto, Rome

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 20:11-18), our risen Lord appears to St. Mary Magdalene, one of Christianity's greatest saints, whose reputation had been incorrectly sullied in past centuries and has been blasphemously perverted in recent years.

But on this second day after the celebration of the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it is good to focus simply on the moment when she meets the Risen One.

Many significant things happen in this brief encounter, but our Lord's initial response to her joyful recognition is particularly interesting: often translated as "Touch me not" (in Greek, mh mou aptou; in Latin, Noli me tangere).

The verb in the original Greek has more of a sense of ongoing action than the simple word "touch" may convey. Hence, other translations have rendered our Lord's response as "Do not cling to me," "Stop holding on to me," or "Be not touching me."

Our Lord then goes on to say

...for I am not yet ascended to my Father:
but go to my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father....

A simple way to paraphrase what our Lord is saying might be, "You can stop touching me: first, I haven't ascended to the Father yet and, second, you have to go to my brothers and deliver the message of my Ascension."

This brief moment reminds us of some important things for our own spiritual lives.

First, it is important - indeed, essential - for us to touch Jesus, in the Sacraments and in prayer.

Even so, our ability to touch our Lord is limited until he brings us to the place where he has ascended and where we can then luxuriate in his presence forever.

Moreover, our relationship with Christ cannot be a closed one (“just me and Jesus”). Touching Christ impels us to reach out with his love and his message to others. Even full-time contemplatives do not stay in isolation with Christ, but must reach out with love to the entire world through prayer.

There is nothing greater or more wonderful than meeting the risen Christ - hearing him in his word, touching him in our souls - but we must do more, for he calls us to go on and spread his message and his love to others until he brings us all to be with him and with the Father forever.