ST. MARY MAGDALENE, A MODEL OF ONE WHO SEEKS GOD LIKE A DRY, WEARY LAND WITHOUT WATER
First Reading: Song of Songs 3:1-4
Responsorial Psalm: 62(63):2-6,8-9
Gospel Reading: John 20:1-2,11-18
The figure of St. Mary Magdalene, whose feast we have the joy of celebrating today, is one of the most prominent women mentioned in the New Testament. Her name comes from the town of Magdala in Galilee, where she was born. She is described as a woman who had suffered from demonic possession and from whom Jesus had expelled seven demons (see Mk 16:9; Lk 8:2). She is also prominently mentioned as one of the women who accompanied Jesus in His ministry (cf. Lk 8:2). She was a witness of the Crucifixion (cf. Mt 27:56; Jn 19:25), of Jesus’ burial (cf. Mt 27:61; Mk 15:47), and of the empty tomb (cf. Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:10). After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to her alone at the tomb (cf. Mk 16:9; Jn 20:1-18). In the Western tradition, Mary Magdalene eventually became identified with the sinful woman of Luke 7:37-50 as well as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (see Lk 10:38-42; Jn 11). However, in the Eastern tradition, the three women were identified separately, with feast days on March 21 (the unnamed sinner), March 18 (Mary of Bethany) and July 22 (Mary Magdalene). Despite the scholarly dispute over her background, what she did in her subsequent life after meeting Jesus, is much more significant. She was certainly a sinner whom Jesus saved, giving us an example of how no person is beyond the saving grace of God.
The first reading from the book of the Song of Songs, not only enshrines the love between man and woman but is, above all, the symbolic expression of God’s love for his people. Nevertheless, in the context of today’s celebration, it can be said to be an allegorical illustration of Mary Magdalene’s ardent seeking of Christ, the one whom her heart loves. With her ardent love for Jesus, remains faithful even after the Calvary tragedy. She ‘stubbornly’ seeks him out, and even the empty tomb does not discourage her as we see in today’s gospel reading. This woman is a symbol of all the souls that seek Christ, knowing that she has nothing to offer but tears of love. Thus, the Risen and Glorious Lord allows himself to be found by anyone who seeks Him. But we will only recognize Him when He calls us by name (as He did to Mary Magdalene) and makes us realize that He knows us more deeply than we think. The meeting will fill us with joy and make us live a new life transfigured by the Lord.
Therefore, Mary Magdalene is portrayed, in the episodes after the Resurrection, as the first of the apostles in the sense that she was the first to announce the Resurrection of Christ, having been “sent” by Christ to do so. Therefore, we are called, like Mary, to witness to the world, by virtue of our baptismal vocation, with words and deeds, that Christ has truly risen and that He is alive and at work today.
For us, Mary Magdalene is a model of ardent, faithful, reverent love, a love that does not know and does not want to be far from the One who loves her and gave up his life for all sinners. May we, like St. Mary Magdalene, embrace our condition as ‘apostles,’ that is, sent to announce the good news to the whole world: that Christ is alive, and it is only through Him that we have access to the Father and a safe way to eternal life. Above all, like Mary Magdalene, may our hearts continually long, thirst, and pine for God like a dry, weary land without water (as depicted in today’s Psalm) until we rest in God.
Mary Magdalene is the patroness of converts, repentant sinners, pharmacists, tanners, perfume and perfume makers/sellers.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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