Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

SofS 3:1-4B; Ps 63:2, 3,4, 5,6, 8-9; Jn 20:1-2,11-18

“Have you seen him whom my heart loves?”

There is an ancient confusion about who this Saint Mary Magdalene really is.  Is she the sinful woman who washed the feet of the Lord and dried them with her hair?  Is she a former woman of the streets?  Although this is a strong tradition about Saint Mary Magdalene, the only thing we can be sure about is that she is the first witness of the greatest event in history, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As the Eastern Church proclaims, Saint Mary Magdalene is the apostle to the Apostles.  Even though she was confused for centuries with the sinful woman in Saint Luke, today she holds no grudge.  Recently, I asked someone, “Why do you cling to the LORD?”  His response helped to restructure this entire reflection, “I cling to the LORD because He first clings to me!”  In this response, the teaching of Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, is the inspiration.  We know that God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them.  We also know that love is not first and foremost about our love of God, but that because God has first loved us then we know how to love God.  This pattern of biblical reflection leads us to the foot of the Cross with Mary, the Holy Theotokos, John, the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene.  As we stand before the Cross of Christ we realize how God loves us without limit; His love is boundless, “precious is the death of His Faithful One.”  This is the way of the Cross, the way of the true life.  Until we stand in the presence of God constantly, we have not yet recovered from the sloth of our daily life; we have not discovered that the life of a believer is one constant lent.  To be a believer means that we cling to the One who first clings to us.  And this clinging is not a matter of dependency; it is all about a strong, loving, embrace.  We are not so much hanging on for dear life, though at times it may seem to be the case; we are standing strong beholding the One whose total self gift does not allow Him to stand—rather he is nailed to the cross—revealed in this total powerlessness to be the passionate strength of God’s love for us.  If the contemplation of such radical self-giving does not summon us to stand in the presence of God then we are sadly blind, and our eyes have not yet burned with the streams of severe mercy before which we stand.  Such is the joy of all sinners, in every generation!  Our Good Shepherd persists not in anger, but he delights in clemency.  We, too, like the loving disciple, Saint Mary Magdalene, long for the Lord Jesus to call our name.  We come forth in communion to taste and see the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

The longing and yearning we hear about in the Responsorial Psalm is found in both the first reading and the Gospel.  The Bride leaves her bed and the security of her home to roam the city in the middle of the night.  She seeks “him whom my heart loves.”  She makes a fool of herself with the night watchmen who are trying to rescue her from any danger of the night.  As the watchmen join her search for “him whom my heart loves,” she is taken surprise by the One for whom she searches.  This romantic moment tries to capture the feeling of every human soul.  We are made in the image and likeness of the New Adam and until our soul unites with Him we are barren and empty, like a dry weary land without water.  The surprise that awaits all of us is expressed in the Sayings of Light and Love by Saint John of the Cross:  “Oh Lord my God, who would seek you with simple and pure love and not find that you are all that any soul could desire, for you go out first to seek those who search for you.”

In the midst of complete loss and great confusion, Mary Magdalene gradually received the full light of Easter Glory.  At first she was afraid that someone had taken the body of the Lord.  It was still early in the morning, and the new light of day was just dawning.  After she gave her first witness to Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, she went back to the tomb and sat weeping.  The brightness of the New Day increased as she had a conversation with the two angels in Easter White.  Before these heavenly messengers had a chance to respond to her grief, Mary Magdalene turned around quickly to catch sight of the Lord Jesus, but she did not recognize him.  She was not yet using her eyes of faith.  She thought she was speaking with the gardener.  Finally, the light of faith hit her eyes when she heard the Lord call her by name.  She responded by calling him teacher.  She was still learning that the Lord Jesus is much more than her teacher.  She held on to him.  He asked her to let go so he could ascend to the Father, and he wanted her to go and tell his brothers.  He asked her to be a witness to his witnesses.  Go back and tell them that you have seen me, and I am going to the Father.  This same Risen Lord Jesus speaks our names and sends us to proclaim his resurrection.  Like Saint Mary Magdalene, we are sinners and we are sent.  Indeed, the world in which we live also needs to hear good news.  Without our testimony the bright glory of that First Easter Morning will remain hidden and ineffective.  Unless we cling to him whom our heart loves we will not shine bright in our witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.