St. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene at the tomb with Jesus and the angel

Today, July 22, is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

John 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” … Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over the into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and reported what he told her.

Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus, from whom He exorcised seven demons (Luke 8:2). She is the first to discover the empty tomb, coming that morning with other women to anoint the body of Jesus. She discovered that He was not there. The Gospel According to John records that she ran to Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (by tradition, John), to tell them that “they have taken the Lord.” Peter and the Beloved Disciple run to the tomb. Peter entered and wondered. The Beloved Disciple entered and believed. They left Mary at the tomb to return to their brothers.

At the tomb alone now, Mary weeps. Two angels she sees in the tomb ask her why she is weeping. Again, she says, “They have taken the Lord.” Finally, she sees Jesus but does not recognize Him. He, too, asks why she is weeping. Again, she says, “They have taken the Lord.”

Then He says her name.

At the sound of her name, Mary recognizes her Lord. The sheep has recognized the voice of her shepherd (John 10:27). Now, she does not call Him Lord. She does not call Him Master. She calls Him teacher. He is the one who has taught her about the kingdom of God. He taught her about love and grace. He taught her and His other disciples that He must suffer and die, but that He would rise again. She thought He was lost, but He has been found. She clings to Him, not wanting to lose Him again. Not wanting to lose her way. He enjoins her not to cling to Him, for His temporal mission is not yet completed. He has still to ascend to the Father.

Now He gives her a mission. “Go to my brothers.” The word “apostle” means one who is sent. In that sense, Mary Magdalene is the first apostle, for she is the first one sent by Jesus to proclaim the good news of His resurrection: “I have seen the Lord!”

Jesus is risen! That is the Good News that the Christian Church has been proclaiming since the day Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus at the tomb. She was the first to proclaim the Gospel. The rest of us follow her example. “Go tell my brothers,” Jesus instructed her. She did so. He instructs us to go and tell the world. May we do so as eagerly as Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morn.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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