Let it Go
April 30, 2022
I suspect Mary Magdalene was livid when, seeing the risen Jesus, he told her not to cling to him. Get over yourself, she probably thought, and give me a hug! But Jesus insisted on staying apart, commenting that she could hug him all she wanted once he’d ascended to his father. It’s as if even Mary’s genuine affection still needed to grow to match the reality of Jesus’s love.
Jesus’s words also carry insight for us. If even Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles, standing in the presence of the risen Christ, had some ideas about Jesus that needed to be let go because they were still too small for God’s love, then we probably have some things that need to be let go, too.
Easter is the mind-blowing season of the church year—surprised by joy and resurrection, yes, but also needing to let go of our previous ideas about love, about God. They didn’t used to seem small, but God has surprised us yet again. The very surprise of Easter resurrection is a reminder of the fact that we needed to be surprised. Something needed to be let go.
What’s hard about letting our ideas of God go, though, is how much we treasure them. We all have favorite hymns, favorite experiences, favorite Christmases or Easters that set the bar for how we understand the divine in our lives. Whether it’s the joyful exuberance of childhood, or the discovered purpose of adult life, or just a great love of chocolate eggs, we all have things that we cling to at Easter. We tend to think (wrongly) that those things would be less precious if we didn’t hang on to them with white knuckles and gritted teeth.
Yet, John’s Gospel reminds us in its closing chapters that only some of the important stuff was written down. Some of it had to be let go in writing the bible. There are, presumably, many interesting stories of Jesus that we just don’t, and won’t ever, know. On the way to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel, the walkers discover Jesus’s presence only once they’ve let go of how they wanted to understand the Jesus story.
We’ve all been asked to let go of so much these past pandemic years—lost time and community festivals and bodily presence and even lost loved ones. But the letting go of Easter is different. It’s not the self-denial of a pandemic or even a Lenten fast: it’s the letting go of our need to cling to the previous wonder so that we can experience the present one.