Disciple of the Lord
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: “The disciples went back home,” and it adds: “but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.”
Mary Magdalene was a witness of the Resurrection. Known also as Mary of Magdala, she was, according to Luke healed of seven demons by Jesus. She was also among the women who accompanied and supported Jesus and the twelve apostles and was present at the Crucifixion and burial. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in five of the six Resurrection narratives in the Gospel tradition.
As Biblical exegesis teaches, the expression ‘seven demons’ could indicate a serious physical or moral malady that had struck the woman and from which Jesus had freed her. But, until now, tradition has claimed that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. This is only because in Chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel we read of the conversion of an anonymous “known sinner in that city” who, when Jesus was a guest in the house of a notable Pharisee, bathed His feet with perfume and her tears and dried them with her hair.” Without any real textual connection, Mary of Magdala was identified with that unnamed prostitute. But, according to Cardinal Ravasi, there is a further misunderstanding: anointing with perfumed oil is a gesture that was also performed by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, on a different occasion, as reported by the Evangelist, St John. And so, in some popular traditions, Mary Magdalene has come to be identified with this Mary of Bethany, after being confused with the prostitute of Galilee.
Mary Magdalene is the first among the women following Jesus to proclaim Him as having overcome death. She is the first to announce the joyful message of Easter. But she also proved she was among those who loved Him most when she stood at the foot of the Cross on Mount Calvary together with Mary, His Mother, and the disciple, St. John. She did not deny him or run away in fear as the other disciples did, but remained close to Him every moment, up to and including the tomb.
Her reputed burial place was at Saint-Maximin in modern-day France. The Benedictine church was destroyed by Saracens in the eighth century and later rebuilt by Dominicans in 1295. Her alleged relics are contained in a splendid bronze casket in the crypt. Her feast is also on the Dominican and Cistercian liturgical calendars for this day.
Today let’s remember Saint Mary Magdalene and reflect on the great love she felt for Christ, for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought, she wept. Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so, it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.”
Heaven is our goal.
Sources: Meet St. Mary Magdalen – Our Patron Saint – St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church (stmarymagdalensa.org)