Today the Roman Church remembers the life of St. Mary Magdalene, formerly a person whose title was associated with the “penitent.” It is reported that St. Thomas Aquinas gave Mary the title of “Apostle of the Apostles” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/07/22/st–mary-magdalene–disciple-of-the-lord-.html). On July 22 of 2016, Pope Francis elevated the day to a Feast to “stress the importance of this faithful disciple of Christ” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/07/22/st–mary-magdalene–disciple-of-the-lord-.html).
In Mark’s Gospel chapter 16 verse 9, the evangelist indicates that Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” In John’s Gospel chapter 20, we have the image of Mary appearing early outside of the tomb while still dark before the other disciples. We know that Mary holds an important status for Christian salvation history as presented in the story of Jesus’s appearance to her before the others. Simon Peter and the other disciple were only able to view the burial clothes, but did not quite have a sense of what occurred. Mary, on the other hand, does not leave but stays weeping and mourning for our Lord. Two angels appear to Mary and state” Woman, why are you weeping?” Her reply is classic based on our limited perceptions of God’s will in which she replies “they have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him” (Jn 20:14). After such a moment, Jesus appears to her and questions her weeping. Mary for a second time does not understand and assumes such a character is a gardener with her reply “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” The third occurrence Jesus just has to state her name for her human nature to see the divine person of Jesus in which her reply is “Rabbouni” or teacher.
It is remarkable that Mary of Magdala is the ultimate message bearer of our salvation and hope in the Lord. Jesus sends her on the church’s first mission to proclaim the good news to the other disciples in which he states “go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (Jn 20:17). Mary, although a person with a troubled past and a sinner like all of us, is a remarkable saint to reflect on. Culturally speaking, Jesus gives such an important task to a woman which was not reflective of the time period’s societal decorum. During this time period, women did not possess the same stature as the male dominated society. Secondly, Mary’s revelation of seeing our risen Lord and her encounter at the tomb shows us that possessing a deep love for our Lord can only come from someone that wears one’s emotion on their sleeve. We must soften our hardened hearts and become dependent upon His great agape love to not only weep when necessary, but also to stay vigilant in our faith at all times. Mary’s deep faith and love for our Lord is something for us to consider this day as we try to stand watch and seek the risen Lord who shows us the way to our Father.
May the Lord Bless us and protect us from all evil this day. St. Mary of Magdalene, pray for us. Amen.