“And Jesus said, “Mary…go
to my sisters and brothers and tell them…”
Summer time, when the responsibilities of my Campus Ministry position
are less demanding, I find time for more leisure, relaxation, visiting
with friends and family, catching up on never ending projects at
home and personal renewal. I am also able to continue some ongoing
research and study regarding an illness of a family member. In today’s
computer age, when ‘googling’ is one means of accessing
a plethora of information on any given topic, the task of sorting
through tons of information can be daunting. Sorting through what
is pertinent and helpful becomes a major challenge as I go from
one website to another, sifting through what is meaningful for me
as I try to make sense of the illness and implications for my family.
Unlike my sometimes frustrating and confusing re-‘searching’
on the internet, today’s Gospel of John presents a clear picture
of a faith-filled woman in Jesus’ life. Not only was Mary
Magdalene at the tomb early in the morning to anoint Jesus’
body (which she discovers is gone), but ran to Peter and the others
to tell them. Unbelieving, John and Peter run to check out Mary’s
story. After confirming what Mary has announced as true, the men
return home. However, Mary remains at the tomb weeping. It is then
that Jesus approaches her, yet unrecognized, until he utters her
name, “Mary” and sends her to announce his resurrection.
At the sound of Jesus’ calling her by name, Mary realizes
that Jesus is alive and witnesses the good news to the sisters and
Today is the celebration of Mary Magdalene as the ‘apostle
to the apostles’ (as the early Church referred to her). It
was clear to the early Christians reading of the scriptures, that
Mary Magdalene was indeed a messenger/preacher of the good news
that Jesus was risen, and as all four gospels testify, Mary Magdalene
and the women were the first to bring the good news to the other
sisters and brothers who were still mourning Jesus’ death.
Unfortunately the Catholic Church of the west seemed to lose sight
of this tremendous role of Mary Magdalene for over 1400 years from
the 5th century until the late 20th century, teaching instead, a
tradition that confused Mary Magdalene with the penitent woman of
the gospels (and traditionally referring to her as a repentant prostitute).
In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar
and dropped the definer, ‘penitent’, and finally aligned
their teachings with the Church of the East by renaming Mary Magdalene
as a saint.
It’s still baffling to me how blinded I (as the well as the
majority of believers) remained to the story of Mary Magdalene’s
witness to the resurrection, which was so overshadowed by the tradition
of her as prostitute.
How often this happens in everyday life, when we pigeon-hole people
in our lives with labels or mis-identify people based on partial
and/or untrue stories. We tend to miss seeing the person for who
she/he really is as a God-presence in our lives and limit our ability
to let God be revealed by the person.
My prayer on this great celebration of Mary Magdalene is that I
will be open to God’s revelation in the lives of those around
me, rather than be closed-minded by my blindness and labeling of