Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
When I think about the liturgical readings for the day, I imagine being 17 again, a junior at our Warrenton Seminary. We’ve just returned from an afternoon of P.E. and outdoor rec, showers, clean clothes, then a hurried walk down the glistening halls to the sacristy where we slip cassocks over our heads and glide into the darkened chapel. The only light comes from the sun’s last rays beaming through the gold, West facing windows high above our heads. A quick genuflection towards the tabernacle, then we take our kneeling seats surrounding the wooden altar.
Fr. Randal Joyce, CP, would have provided spiritual reading for that long-ago afternoon, but today I have the gospel of John, 20th chapter, which tells us of Mary Magdalen and her journey to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday. While we greet the story like an old friend, other thoughts intrude like bubbles breaking a serene surface…
She goes to Christ’s tomb after His Passion, death and burial, only to find it is empty. As Mary stands in the cemetery garden, broken hearted and crying, she is addressed by a man whom she mistakes as the gardener. When she realizes it is Christ, she stutteringly calls to Him, “Teacher.” He replies with one simple word; “Mary.”
Even through the centuries the tenderness of that single response resonates within us and gives us to understand Christ’s deep love for her, s love reinforced with the knowledge that she is the first disciple He appears to after His resurrection. We know that Peter felt threatened by her relationship with Christ. Later church leaders likewise felt so threatened by her knowledge and understanding of Christ that Pope Gregory in 591 sought to present her not as a cherished follower, but as a prostitute seeking Our Lord’s forgiveness, a false assessment still alive in our Church today.
How often have I been less than kind towards someone I felt jealous of? How often have I let anger touch my heart when someone else has been unkind to me? Have I sought to take credit for someone else’s work or been angered when they might have taken credit for my labor? Teach me, Lord, to know your Love. To banish this anger and jealousy which is nothing but a lack of true understanding of Your Love.
Ray Alonzo is the father of three children, grandfather of two, and husband to Jan for 45 years. He is a USN Vietnam Veteran, and a 1969 graduate of Mother of Good Counsel Passionist Prep Seminary. Ray currently serves on the Passionist Alumni Council.