SAINT MARY MAGDALENE
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Often non-Catholics say to us, “What is it with you Catholics and your emphasis on all these saints?” It is important to point out that we do not adore or worship the saints. God alone is the object of our worship. We honour or venerate the saints. The best way to honour them is to imitate their virtues.
Mary Magdalene is a model of faith. There are 3 details about her life that ought to inspire us to follow her example.
The 1st detail is not mentioned in today’s Gospel reading, but this fact is mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels. Mary was possessed by 7 demons, but Jesus cast them out, and she became free. Jesus was her healer.
Likewise, we all have demons that live inside us. Evil does dwell within us. We are all sinners. There are no exceptions. The challenge is to bring whatever torments us – whether physical, emotional, psychological, moral or spiritual – to the Lord. Let us have the courage to present whatever afflicts us – whether it is on the outside or on the inside – to Jesus and ask him to touch that darkness with his saving and healing power. Each one of us today is invited to follow the example of Mary Magdalene and ask Jesus: “Be my healer”.
The 2nd detail is that, after the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene is the woman who was closest to Jesus. She literally followed him throughout the 3 years of his public life. Mary knew him and loved him deeply. In the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm, “her soul clung to Jesus; her soul was thirsting for him”.
She stood by Jesus and never left his side; she was even present during his passion, death and burial. Unlike the other disciples, she does not run away, betray or deny the Lord. She remains faithful until the end.
As we see in today’s Gospel, she comes to the tomb to look after his dead body. Her grief is so intense that she is sobbing uncontrollably. Once she recognizes the Risen Jesus, she wants immediately to touch him and embrace him. These gestures are all proofs of their intimate relationship and of their mutual respect and love.
In this regard, Mary Magdalene is a spiritual role model for us. The same can happen to us. We, too, can develop a close and loving relationship with Jesus. The natural response is to say: How can this be possible? I am so unworthy.
The fact that Mary Magdalene was originally possessed by 7 demons ought to give us hope. Our woundedness, our limitations, our weaknesses are not barriers to knowing and loving Jesus on a deep level. As with Mary Magdalene, our brokenness and our sinfulness can become the basis for Jesus’ forgiving and healing love to take possession of our lives. As Father Richard Rohr states: “We do not need to be perfect to be the beloved of Jesus and of God”. Once we grasp this truth, we, too, can be firm, constant and unwavering in our commitment to Jesus.
The 3rd detail is that Mary Magdalene is mentioned in the Resurrection accounts of all 4 Gospels. As we see in today’s Gospel reading, she was the 1st to meet the Risen Lord. Jesus appeared to her before he even appeared to his disciples. She is the 1st eyewitness to the bodily Resurrection of Jesus.
After seeing the Risen Christ, Mary went and proclaimed this good news to the Disciples. This act has earned her the traditional title of “Apostle to the Apostles”. But, most importantly, with her announcement, “I have seen the Lord”, she comes to experience in the very depth of her being that Jesus is stronger than death.
The same is true for us. Although we are not “eyewitnesses” to the Resurrection, we are called to be witnesses to the Resurrection. We are to believe and to trust in the very core of our being that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has triumphed over death. Actually, each time we come to Mass, we are witnessing to the Resurrection. It is the body and blood of the Risen Lord who is present on this altar under the appearances of bread and wine. By coming here this afternoon, like Mary Magdalene, we are announcing: Jesus is alive now, at this moment.
Furthermore, a key message of the Eucharist is that God loves us so much that he holds nothing back. He gives us everything, including a share in Jesus’ victory over death. The good news is that, since the empty tomb that Mary Magdalene discovered, death no longer has the last word. The last word is life. The last word is that God did not make us for darkness and death, but rather, that we should live and come closer to him both now and for all eternity.
As our Mass continues, let us ask God for 3 graces. First, like Mary Magdalene, may we experience the gift of Jesus as our personal healer and deliverer from sin. Second, like Mary Magdalene, may we become close to Jesus and may Jesus become close to us. Let us remain faithful to him until the end. Third, like Mary Magdalene, may we proclaim that Christ is our living Lord and cling to the promise of our Christian faith that death has been put to death.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
July 22, 2020