There is something in the Gospel of Saint John that I never understood. Why did Mary Magdalen think that the Risen Jesus was the gardener? Gardener? What’s the deal? “Supposing him to be the gardener…” (John 20: 15).
Think of a place on earth that is very, very hot. Think of a time when there were no washing machines; no dry cleaners; no Malls to buy clothes; people making their own clothes; people having only a few outfits.
During the time when Jesus walked the earth, gardeners worked naked. Naked? Yep, they sure did.
So, if Mary Magdalen looked upon a naked man and thought that he was the gardener, could it be possible that Jesus rose from the dead naked?
OK, before you have a heart attack, consider this:
Referring to John as he waited for Peter before entering the empty tomb, the same narrative says: “he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground…” (John 20: 5). Then when Peter enters the tomb, the Gospel tells us that “he saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20: 6-7).
Unless I am missing something, Jesus did not go to the Mall to buy a new set of clothes before leaving the tomb on Easter Sunday.
He rose from the dead naked. He appeared to Mary Magdalen, naked. I do not know if someone gave him a robe later on, but one thing is certain from the Scriptures: Jesus rose from the dead naked.
Now that you have gotten over your heart attack, why is all of this so essential?
We live in a pornographic culture. Maybe you are one of the millions of people in America who are addicted to pornography. What is pornography? It is a lie. It is counterfeit. It is a distortion. And you know who the father of lies is, right?
The only way that Americans will be able to free themselves from their addiction to pornography is through the truth of the human body.
Go to Rome. Enter into the great basilicas; the museums; the plazas and what do you see? The naked body; the truth of the body.
And you know what? In Rome you don’t see the pornography and the strip joints that you see in America. Why? Because the Romans, like everyone who lives in a Catholic culture, are immersed in the truth of the body.
Catholicism is physical.
We have art and music. We have poetry and incense. We have feast days with food and wine. We have gardens and fountains. We have saints and mystics, some of whom are incorruptible. We are immersed in the physical because Jesus has risen from the dead with a glorified body. He is not the product of the imagination of his disciples. He is physical!
“The glory of God is man fully alive” are the beautiful words of Saint Irenaeus.
OK, I am not advocating Catholic nudist colonies.
But what I am talking about is the fact that America needs to come out of the lie and see beauty and truth anew. Too many Americans are walking around like zombies because they are immersed in the pornographic. It is all around us.
We need a new romance.
We need to fall in love again.
As Saint Augustine says, “To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement.”
Perhaps the notion of the nakedness of the Risen Jesus is difficult to consider, even daunting to write about.
However, is not the Eucharist the Risen Body of Jesus? Cannot we affirm that the Risen Jesus is naked in heaven? Thus, cannot the naked body of Jesus draw us out of sin and allow us to see our own body and every other body in a different way, free from lust?
Although we will always struggle with concupiscence until the resurrection of the body, is it not possible for the naked Risen Jesus to free us from lust and allow us to love correctly?
In other words, is it not possible that the exposed Eucharist more clearly draws us, through grace, to understand the nuptial relationship between me and God? Is it not possible that the exposed Eucharist more clearly makes the Body of the Lord a gift for me and me a gift for Him?
Theologically, there is no difference between the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance. But, we do use the word exposed.
Is this not the same as saying naked?
Is He not open, vulnerable and exposed for us, so that we may receive His love?
Is it not possible that the Risen and naked body of Christ, solemnly exposed in the Monstrance, can free us from the darkness of lust so that we can see our body and the bodies of others with a new vision, the vision of the redeemed?