Friday, July 22, 2011

St. Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the more prominent women of the New Testament. Many hear her name and immediately think she was quite the sinful woman before she met Jesus, but not all scripture scholars agree that she was that infamous woman. Part of the problem is that the name Mary is mentioned a number of times in the Gospels. Perhaps Mary was as common a name in Jewish families first century Palestine as it had been in Irish (and other) Catholic families. In my own family we have had more than a few women by the name of Mary!
In the Gospels we meet Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Some have said she and Mary Magdalene are the same person. There are times when we meet her and her name is quite obvious: in the Gospel of St. Luke (8,2), she is the woman “from whom seven demons had gone out”. We meet her at the cross (Mt 27,56; Mk 15,40; John 19,25); at Jesus’ burial (Mt 27,61; Mk 15,47); at the Resurrection (Mt 28,1-10, Mk16, 1-9; Lk 24,1-12). Then there is that beautiful encounter between her and Jesus in St. John’s Gospel(Jn 20,1-18) where after the Resurrection she is weeping because the tomb is empty, and she fears “they have taken my Lord away”(20,13).
Mary saw Jesus but didn’t recognize him until he spoke her name. I have pondered this passage frequently. Very often those we love have special names for us, or even a certain way of saying our name. Most people who have lost parents and other loved ones say they really miss their hearing that person’s voice. I can agree with that. So, we can imagine what joy it must have been for Mary to hear Jesus say her name one more time. Have you every thought how Jesus might call you, how he might say your name?
Whatever we don’t know about this great saint, we do know that she was a loyal disciple of Jesus. She was one of the women who left everything to follow him. She was one of his supporters. St. Luke (8,3) tells us she was one of the women who provided for Jesus and “the twelve” out of their resources. She was courageous. She stood by Jesus at the foot of the cross when many others hid. She was fearless and caring, especially shown when she went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. She was a trusted disciple. Jesus revealed his Resurrection and entrusted to her the mission of giving that news to the Apostles.
Mary Magdalene is truly one “who found him whom my soul loves” (Song of Solomon 3,4). What a wonderful example for all of us.

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