Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. There are various discussions about which Mary she was. And there are many who would like to make Mary Magdalene someone to support their particular views of Christianity and Jesus Christ Himself. According to Scripture, she is the one from whom Jesus expelled seven demons. The focus on the feast, however, in not on exorcism, but on love and mission. In the Gospel for today's Mass, it is (Easter) Sunday morning and Mary is weeping at the tomb of her friend and Rabbi Jesus. She is upset, not only because Jesus has died, but also because His body is not in the tomb and she believes that someone has stolen it.

When Mary does recognize Jesus as being alive, she apparently reached out to hug Him and hold Him tight, which seems perfectly normal. Jesus said do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. I used to be taken aback by Jesus' statement. Why tell Mary not to cling to Him? Isn't that what a Christian should do- hold on to Jesus? And then I realized that Jesus meant something different. He had not yet ascended to God the Father yet. That is how we are to cling to Him.

Saint Peter, on Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration, wanted to erect three tents, but Jesus would not let him do it. Jesus' mission was not yet complete. At the tomb on Easter Sunday Morning, Jesus' mission was still not yet complete. He had to ascend to the Father, so that everyone would be able to cling to Him.

But the mission is still really not yet complete. For one thing, the Last Day has not arrived, when Jesus Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. On that Day, the mission will be complete. In the meantime, we are called to participate in the mission of Jesus. When she encountered the Risen Lord Jesus, Mary Magdalene was given a mission- to go to Jesus' brothers (that is, His disciples) and announce that He had Risen from the dead and was going to God the Father. Mary had not been chosen as an apostle, but Our Lord gave her this task. It helps us understand that the proclamation of the Good News of our salvation is not reserved to bishops, priests and deacons. It is the task of every Christian to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus.

Today, Mary Magdalene's part of the mission is over. She made her announcement through words and actions. and through her prayers, many are drawn into Christ's mercy and love. It was only her love for our Lord which made it possible for her to complete her part of that mission and cling to Jesus.

We could love Jesus too.

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