SUNDAY’S READINGS | May 8, 2022
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’” (John 20:15-16). Jesus reveals himself not by his appearance but by his voice and, more specifically, by the invocation of Mary’s name.
Naming is incredibly important both to God, who knows all things by their name, and to humans, who experience the world as intelligible precisely through language and by assigning names. “The Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” (Gen. 2:19). Through language, the world enters the mind and consciousness of humanity.
To a far greater degree, all creation, though outside of God, is in him. God is ever thinking and naming the universe. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name, because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing” (Isa. 40:26). “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147:4). Naming implies a specific and intimate knowledge. To the mind of God, “not one is missing.”
Human language is, in some sense, always defective. We perceive and understand only in part. Mary sees a man, and inwardly she names him a gardener. It is only when the risen Lord addresses her that she renames him as the One he is. Her language is purified and perfected by the call of Christ. Hearing her name spoken, she knows him suddenly as Master and Lord. In a similar way, every disciple of Jesus Christ hears a personal calling from Christ. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:26-28).
We are called by name and known, it seems, even by the craft or work we do. Of course, our lives are completely open to God, but there is something truly touching in hearing that Tabitha made tunics and other clothing and that Simon was a tanner. Some disciples were fishermen, some tax collectors, some beggars, some prostitutes. God knows who we are, what we do, how we support ourselves in the world, the moral compromises we make, and the forgiveness we need.
Why does Christ call us and behold our lives? “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” (John 10:28). The supernatural life that Christ promises begins in nature, where we are and where we live our mortal lives.
Using the raising of Tabitha as an illustration, we learn not that all the dead may rise again, like her or Lazarus, to a second round of earthly life. Rather, this is a resurrection story, a story in which life passes over into the everlasting life of God. What happens? Tabitha becomes ill and dies. Two disciples summon Peter, and without delay, Peter “got up.” That is, employing the verb “to rise,” Peter rose, and then, at the command of Peter, Tabitha rose from her bed, and, finally, extending his hand to her, Peter raised her up.
Christ comes to us, names us, commands us to rise with him, and extending his hand, he grasps us, as he did when Peter sank amid turbulent waves, and when Adam and Eve were in Hades.
Look It Up: The Collect
Think About It: He knows you by name. Rise with him!