SERMON IN SZENTENDRE July 19, 2015
Szentendre, 2015. jķlius 19.
Eero Huovinen (Bishop emeritus, Helsinki, Finland)
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesusí body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I donít know where they have put him."Ę
At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ĎI am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.í "
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:10-18)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ
First of all I want to thank you for the invitation to celebrate together with you the Sunday worship. We as members of the Lutheran - Roman Catholic Commission on Unity are happy that the many conflicts between our Churches are over and we can deepen the Communion among us.
In the arm of coats of this city, Szentendre, we can see a lamb with a flag, in fact the Lamb of God and the flag with cross, sign of the victory. Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is the center of our common faith. Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lamb of God, unites us as Catholics and Lutherans. Your city, dear sisters and brothers here in Szentendre, is a city of Jesus Christ and a city which shows the way to true unity between all Christians.
The unity between Christians is carried forward also by one small thing that we often do not pay attention to even though we understand its meaning. By this aspect I mean seeing each other face to face.
We who visit you today come from different parts of the world, from Japan, from Brasil, from France, from Tansania, from United States. I suppose this is the first day in our life we see the faces of the people of Szentendre. We Finns very well know that we are relatives to the Hungarian people, but it happens very seldom, that we see you face to face.
It is a joy to see you all today. I believe that seeing each other face to face is conducive to build friendship between us, to strengthen our common faith and to work for the visible unity of the church.
The gospel of John tells us about Jesusís resurrection where seeing the other oneís countenance is in the center. The story of the empty grave has its dramatical climax in the scene where Mary of Magdalene and Jesus meet in the garden.
Before Mary recognizes her Master, three things take place as if in a play with three acts. First, Jesus calls Mary by her name, then Mary tries to touch Jesus and finally she sees her rabbiís face. The name, the touch and the look.
In the first act Jesus says only one word, but a key word, namely the first name, "Mary". Now there is not just a human being or a woman standing in front of Jesus, but Mary, called by her name.
Saying someoneís name has the same effect as addressing someone always does. We are awakened, we stop. Mary turns to the speaker, looks at him in the eye and she also answers by uttering one name, one word, "Rabbi".
In order to recognize Jesus it is enough that he calls the seeker, who is crying, by her first name. Calling her by her name creates a strong personal tie between them.
The second act follows. Jesus seems to keep Mary at a distance when he says, "Donít touch me". Originally the words meant "do not hang on to me" or "do not cling to me". The Latin phrase of Jesusís words, noli me tangere, is repeatedly found in literature and art, even in liturgical songs.
We cannot judge by Jesusís words whether Mary has already touched him with her hand or not. In any case, she is not allowed to hold on to Jesus or detain him.
The fact that Jesus recognized her has enticed Mary to think that the Master would be present in the same way as he was when living. That is why she reaches out to touch him with her hand. But Jesus reminds her that his presence is now different.
When he goes on he makes clear why Mary cannot touch her risen teacher. "Do not touch me. I have not yet ascended to the Father."
The mission of Jesus does not end with the resurrection. There is still the ascension to his Father which we call ascension to heaven. Mary cannot detain him from this by holding on to him and owning him.
The third level of their encounter is revealed when Mary - doing what Jesus told her to do - rushes to the disciples and lets them know, "I have seen the Lord!"
When Mary becomes excited after recognizing Jesus and rushes to tell the news of her teacherís resurrection, she does not tell about the stone rolled away from the grave or the empty grave. She tells about seeing the countenance of Jesus, her Lord, seeing him face to face.
The core of the resurrection is who has risen. In the Christian faith it is not essential how and when the miracles took place but who is the miracle. That we can see the countenance of Christ and God, that is decisive.
The innermost desire of a believer both in the Jewish and Christian faiths is to see the face of God. The hope of seeing Godís face lives on. Even though we cannot yet see him face to face, the wish can one day become fulfilled. In the Lordís blessing we pray: "The Lord make his face to shine upon you." "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you".
Apostle Paul says that in this world we see Jesus and God only dimly, as in a mirror, only partly (I Cor. 13:12). But one day, at the end of our times and when all time ends, Godís countenance waits to be recognized. Then, beyond our time, we can see him face to face.
It is not for no reason that eternal life has been described as the beautific vision of God. According to the Book of Revelation our desire is fulfilled in heaven, Godís servants shall see his face (Rev. 22:4)
Maryís words "I have seen the Lord" direct us towards the future, towards growing communion and at the end, into eternal life.