The Astounding Reversal

Fr. Kevin Grove C.S.C. ’09 M.Div., Holy Cross priest, assistant professor in the Department of Theology, priest in residence at Dunne Hall here at the University of Notre Dame explores a painting for this glorious Easter Sunday: Noli Me Tangere by Vincenzo Spisanelli.

On the left side of Spisanelli‚Äôs painting, we see Christ’s resplendent risen body partially draped in a blue garment. He holds an inverted garden shovel in his raised right hand, while his left hand gestures to Mary Magdalene and reveals one of the wounds from the crucifixion. 

Mary kneels before Jesus in a state of disbelief at what she is seeing. She had come to the tomb, continuing the faithful discipleship that had seen her stay near Jesus even to the foot of the cross. While she had expected to see a sealed tomb, she instead saw it empty and became the first witness to the resurrection.

A short while later, as depicted by our painting, she encounters the risen Jesus. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus said to Mary, ‚ÄúNoli me tangere,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúDo not touch me,‚ÄĚ or as it is translated in today‚Äôs gospel, ‚ÄúStop holding on to me.‚ÄĚ

Of course, we can understand Mary’s desire to cling to Jesus. She had experienced the utter agony of his death, and suddenly, she is faced with the astounding reversal of his resurrection. Who among us would not reach for the Lord in such a setting? But instead of allowing her to stay, Jesus sends her on a mission to tell the others this most amazing news.

Mary willingly obeys, and in doing so, she helps spread the Good News of the Gospel throughout the world! And what joy we have today as we again celebrate this mystery. We continue the work of Mary Magdalene and the whole Church, taking our place in the long line of witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is truly risen! Alleluia!

This Lent, ThinkND invites you to join FaithND and the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art for a journey of Lenten discovery through some of the most significant liturgical paintings in the Raclin Murphy collection, challenging you to contemplate prayer, fasting, sinfulness, mercy, grace, and God’s infinite love from the perspectives of the artist’s gaze. To subscribe to the FaithND Daily Gospel Reflection visit

Vincenzo Spisanelli, Noli Me Tangere, 1640, Oil on canvas. Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David B. Findlay, 1958.008.

For closer viewing of this work through the digital collections of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, please click here.

Art and HistoryReligion and PhilosophyAsh WednesdayDigest184Digest274DigestEasterEasterEucharistFaithNDHoly WeekLentNoli Me TangereRaclin Murphy Museum of ArtResurrectionThe PassionVincenzo Spisanelli

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