The Apostle of the Apostles

John 20:1-2,11-18
Sg 3:1-4b / Psa 63

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 20:18)

Declare, though we have never seen,
Share with all who care to listen,
The Word from Mary Magdalene:
Our Lord, Jesus Christ has risen!

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)

Reflection

Mary of Magdala was one of the most devoted followers of our Lord Jesus. She fearlessly accompanied the Blessed Mother Mary and John, the son of Zebedee to Calvary to witness the suffering and death of Jesus. She was there when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross, and laid him in the tomb (Mk.15:47), and she was the first to visit the tomb early the following day bringing spices. It is no wonder that the Risen Lord favored her to be the first witness of His Resurrection, and the Catholic Church bestowed on her the honor of being called apostola apostolorum — the Apostle of the Apostles – being the first to report the Resurrection to them. 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 our Lord’s first witness.

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, even up to the present time. Many irreverent Gnostics that she and Jesus were married. This became the basis for the controversial book of Dan Brown, the “Da Vinci Code”.

Mary Magdalene’s repentance is portrayed differently in the four Gospel writers, and it is only in the version of St. John (12:3) where the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with costly oil is identified as Mary Magdalene. But she is present in all the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, and even appears to be the central figure in this momentous event of the Lord’s Resurrection. 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.

Let us honor St. Mary Magdalene not only today, on her feast day, but every time we need to be inspired by her example of repentance, and great love for Jesus, for being a model of contemplation at the feet of the Savior, and for being the first herald of His Resurrection.

Dear God, we thank You for the example of St. Mary Magdalene, the most beloved follower of your Son, Jesus Christ, and the first witness of His victory over death. May she be our constant inspiration to follow Jesus all the days of our lives. Amen.

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