Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
There is a multitude of movies which portray for us the presence, the power, the wisdom and the energy of women. These are not necessarily women who stand out in a crowd like Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I or Eleanor Roosevelt. No, these are women who have been gifted by God and use these gifts to foster, promote and guide their loved ones, friends and neighbors. I am thinking about portrayals of women in plays and movies such as The Color Purple, Not Without My Daughter, Mistletoe Over Manhattan, and Steel Magnolias. This last movie gives us a vivid picture of women who live a deep and abiding friendship to the point that they live with a very conscious mission to be there for each other in every moment of life – joys, sorrows, storms and anxieties. They live a “mission” to one another and to all who are part of their lives.
Saint Mary Magdalene is such a woman in our faith life. She is cured by the Lord Jesus. Actually, in one Gospel, Jesus expels several demons from her. She in turn becomes a dedicated disciple and follower. She travels in the Lord’s itinerant band and cares for the assembled faithful. She is a steadfast presence to the Lord in the sufferings of His Sacred Passion. She stands resolute with the Blessed Mother as Jesus hangs in agony upon His Cross and finally dies. She shed her tears of sorrow and disbelief as they carried His body to the tomb and rolled the stone into the mouth of the cave. She waited with heavy heart throughout the Passover celebration for a chance to return to the tomb to perform the usual burial customs. The Gospels certainly present her to us a woman of strength, solid conviction and courage with a caring compassion born out of her own weakness and healing by the Lord.
Once Easter morning arrived and she was standing at the open tomb, all of these great dimensions of this wonderful woman become magnificently amplified. She is the first to whom the Risen Lord appears and reveals His resurrection. Incredulous with joy, Mary Magdalene tries to hold onto to Him. She discovers in a flash this will not be possible. She will not be able to relate to the Risen Lord in the same way that she did when she walked along with Him, listened to Him teach, and watched Him heal. The Risen Lord has fulfilled the promise of salvation in a manner which exceeded her wildest expectations. She becomes the first to understand that all of life must now be seen and understood through the prism of the Resurrection of the Risen Lord. All of life is now made new. All of life is now understood in a different, exciting and dynamic way. Our destiny to live as citizens of the New Jerusalem is now made clear. Mary Magdalene is the first to hear it, the first to begin to see it, the first to begin to unravel the marvels of the Father’s love given to us in the Risen Lord.
With this new knowledge, this new understanding, this new heart, Mary Magdalene becomes what Blessed Pope Paul VI called “the Apostle to the Apostles”. She was the first witness, the woman of strength, love and courage, who would announce the Resurrection to the Eleven and the Blessed Mother. In accepting this mission, Mary Magdalene began the unfolding of the missionary dimension of God’s People. She helps us to see, understand and accept our faith reality that we are indeed made daughters and sons of the same Heavenly Father who sent Jesus to redeem us. She continues to urge us to see and share the glory of the new life which burst forth that blessed Easter morning. She continues to guide us toward an understanding of all of our lives seen through the power of the Resurrection. In our faith life, she continues to be for us our very own “Steel Magnolia”.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.