The readings at Mass for the first part of Eastertide describe the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to a number of people including Mary Magdalene, the apostles, and others. The question arises often: why did he not appear to his Mother? It is true that he may have but we have no information about that in the Gospels. But l would offer the following reflection on this question.
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the apostles to call them to faith. The fact is that they did not believe, despite Jesus’ clear words to them that he had to die and then rise again on the third day. Mary Magdalene, who knew and loved Jesus so much, thought he was the gardener! She could not believe that the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen from the dead. And so Jesus calls her to faith by calling her name: “Mary!” The same can be said for his appearances to the disciples. They also forget his words about dying and rising, and they did not remember these words because they thought them impossible. And so, in those mysterious appearances, the risen Lord calls them to faith. And we must remember that even at the time of the Ascension, the Lord upbraids the disciples for their lack of faith.
Given all of this, we approach the question of why there are no recorded appearances of the Risen Lord to his Mother from the vantage point of her absolute singularity in salvation history. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by an act of faith on her part. It is true that she was able to assent because of the grace of God within her, and yet it was her own act of faith. She who carried Him in her womb, she who nursed Him, she who pondered the meaning of Simeon’s song, she who pondered the meaning of his words when she and Joseph found him in the temple and his words to her at the wedding feast in Cana: she alone bore these things in her memory, that memory graced by her faith. And it is she alone who in standing at the foot of the Cross, is graced by that final act of faith in her Son and her recognition of who he is, and in that moment when her heart is joined to his, her faith becomes perfect and in the last and absolute sense she becomes the first believer in the Resurrection of Christ. The disciples waver. They need proof. They back away. Not so Mary. She knows that he is alive. She needs no proof. That is also why Mary must be at Pentecost. The others are waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit to enable them to be messenger of the Gospel. Mary is already the messenger of the Gospel in her role as the woman of perfect faith and the memory of the Church. May the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary assist us in strengthening our own faith in her Son and his Resurrection, so that we may all have a sure hope that when we die we have the sure hope of being raised with Christ.
Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla