March 31, 2024: Don’t Hold On

Sunrise service at God's Acre

Resurrection of Our Lord/Easter Sunday

Don’t Hold On

Mary weeps outside the tomb. Peter and the other disciple have  seen the empty tomb and the discarded linens. They have left the garden and returned home. Mary, however, remains. Her grief and fear are overwhelming. Perhaps  if she stays close by, she will find her Lord. Peering into the tomb for a second time, Mary sees two angels in white who ask why she is weeping. “They have taken away my Lord,” she replies, “and I do not know where they have laid him.” In the foggy confusion of grief, Mary turns to see someone standing close who also speaks to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the  gardener, Mary’s responds: Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

And then like a beam of light shining in Mary’s darkness, recognition comes as the familiar voice calls her name: “Mary!” She responds with joyful relief, “Rabbouni,” and in her excitement reaches out to hold on to Jesus, hoping to prevent him from leaving her again. Jesus, however, offers a word of caution: “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).

Richard Rohr, the great contemplative, reflects on Jesus’ prohibition: Jesus is not trying to limit Mary’s love for Jesus. Rather, Jesus is saying,

“ ‘Don’t hold on to the past, what you think you need or deserve. We are all heading for something much bigger and much better, Mary.’ . . . Eventually even the greatest things in our lives—even our loves—must be released and allowed to become something new. Otherwise we are trapped. Love has not yet made us free” (“Great Love,”, from  Richard Rohr, The Immortal Diamond, pp. 153-54).

The faith, hope and love of Easter tell us we are free to release our past losses because the Risen Christ makes all things new, including  you and me. Alleluia.

Lane Sapp, director of Commission on Ministry
Southern Province,
Winston-Salem, North Carolina