Mary Magdalene, John’s gospel records, went to the tomb early on the first day of the week while it was still dark. She found the stone removed from the tomb. Weeping, she was convinced that someone had stolen the body. When Jesus himself appeared and addressed her she did not know it was he. She thought she was speaking to the gardener until he said one word to her that brought recognition and clarity: “Mary!”
That’s a powerful resurrection story. It teaches us that Jesus is with us “incognito”. Though he walks and talks and stands among us, we don’t (or, often don’t) recognize him. We fail to know that “it is he” until at long last we hear him call us by name. Faith in this story comes not by seeing but by hearing that which is personal and specific to each of us. Faith in this story comes by direct address, just as God called to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Mary the mother of Jesus by name.
Prayer is perhaps the best opportunity for us to be in conversation with God. In prayer and in stillness before God, we turn off all of the other voices, noises, and distractions that constantly demand our attention so we can focus and be open. In prayer, we speak our hearts and minds, our joys and hopes, our concerns, and praises to God. But the best of prayers, like the best of conversations with a friend, aren’t one-way monologues, but a balance of hearing and sharing, speaking and receiving, give and take. Be still before God and listen to the voice of the one who lovingly says, “I have called you by name. You are mine.”