John 20:1-2, 11-18
2 Cor 5:14-17 / Psa 63
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’
Let us honor Mary Magdalene,
And pray for her intercession;
She was the first saint on the scene
At Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending 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 she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-2, 11-18)
Today, July 22, is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene. Her sainthood was an unofficial yet ecclesial canonization, in recognition of the privilege that God gave her as the first witness of Christ’s Resurrection. In fact, as the bearer of this good news to the disciples, she was even referred to in early Christian writings as “the apostle to the apostles.” Among His flock, Mary Magdalene was the first “sheep” that the Resurrected Christ called by name. “He calls his own sheep by name…” (Jn.10:3).
The 12th century saw a widespread devotion to St. Mary Magdalene in the Western Church. St. Theresa of Avila wrote in her personal journal that it was the story of Mary of Magdala which played an important role in her conversion from spiritual indifference. St. Bridget of Sweden wrote: “There are three saints I love above all: Mary the mother of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene.” We do not know how many saints and martyrs shared the same sentiments about the influence this mystical woman played in their lives, but we do know that she has become the most controversial female saint in the New Testament, and even up to the present time. Many gnostics believe that she wrote the “Gospel of Mary Magdalene” and even claim that she and Jesus were married. This became the basis for the controversial book of Dan Brown, the “Da Vinci Code”.
There seems to be some confusion in the Gospel accounts on whether the Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) was the same “sinful woman” who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:37-38), and the “Mary called Magdalene, out of whom seven devils were gone forth” who was also one of the women of means who provided material help and assistance to the Lord and His apostles (Luke 8:2). But there is no question in all the four Gospel writers that Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Christ’s Resurrection. For this honor is she revered as one of the greatest saints.
Mary Magdalene was once a great sinner, but her love for Jesus gave her the special honor to be the first to see Him resurrected, and the first disciple whom He called by name. May her example lead us to the same repentance and devout love for Jesus, and by His grace be transformed, and honored as adopted sons of His Father.
Father God, we honor St. Mary Magdalene on her feast day today, and we pray that through her and our Blessed Mother’s intercession we may also draw nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ by serving those who serve You, and by complete devotion to Your Word. Amen.