On this feast day we celebrate the “Apostle to the Apostles,” St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most loyal and steadfast of Jesus disciples
Reflections on the readings for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22, 2022): SGS 3:1-4; PS 63:2,3-4,5-6,8-9; JN 20:1-2,11-18
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Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”* which means Teacher. (John 20:16)
St. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in each of the four Gospels, an indication of her importance. She was healed by Jesus when He cast seven demons out of her which probably refers to some kind of serious illness. After that, she became one of His followers. And, along with other women disciples, she followed Christ and helped provide for His welfare and that of the others close to Him. Mary came from Magdala, a fishing village, but we know virtually nothing else about her life before meeting Jesus. The long-held notion that she was a reformed prostitute and penitent has no basis in Scripture. It is likely that this mistake came from confusing her with other women mentioned in the Gospels. However, we do see her standing with the Blessed Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Then on Easter Sunday morning she went to His tomb to help finish His burial ritual. In the Gospel that we hear today, she finds the stone rolled back and rushes away to tell Peter and John the news. She returns to the tomb with them and, in her grief, stays there when they leave. When Jesus appears she does not recognize Him at first. “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 have 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” (John 20:15-16).
Only when Jesus actually speaks her name does she know Him. After He instructs her to go to the rest of the disciples and give them His message. She immediately follows His instruction does, saying, “I have seen the Lord.” These are the last words we hear from Mary Magdalene in Scripture. Many centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas made a memorable comparison between her words and those of our ancestor Eve: “Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life.” Although revered as a saint from the early years of the Church, it was only in 2016 that she was commemorated with a Feast equivalent to that of Christ’s male Apostles.