The Feast of Mary Magdalene

We celebrate on July 22nd, the Feast of Mary Magdalene.  We know little about Mary but there seem to be some generally accepted truths:  there were women who accompanied Jesus on his mission, some who had been cured of evil spirits, among them Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2); Mary Magdalene is among the women who witness Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25); and Mary is the first to visit the empty tomb, tell the apostles, and then encounters the resurrected Jesus (John 20: 1-18).

 Perhaps the story that I can relate the most is when she comes back after Peter and John have raced to see the empty tomb.  As I place myself in the scene and let my imagination participate in the Ignatian style, meditative contemplation, I can feel Mary’s anguish and pain.   It has been less than three days since Jesus was crucified.  I’m having a hard time understanding why the Romans would crucify him, he seemed to be such a good person, kind and merciful.  His unconditional love touched all of us and advised us to turn the other cheek when trouble and insults would arise.   Even the Jewish elders were angry at him and wanted him to go away.  I could feel Jesus’ love for me and how he touched my heart.  The whole crucifixion seemed so barbaric with so much bleeding, it just did not seem fair!

We wanted to give Jesus a proper burial on Friday instead of leaving him on the cross, and now it seems the Romans have taken him.  Or was it the gardener.   I watch Mary as she interacts with the angels inside the tomb as noted in the Gospel of John:

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.  (John 20: 1-18, NIV)

How often have I found myself in Mary’s position, stuck in my own feelings of pain and sadness after an adverse event, wondering where was Jesus so he could help me out?  It has been easy to be blinded by my own preoccupations, particularly if I’m feeling strongly that I want to do things my own way, make things better by myself.

But as I humble myself, acknowledging that I am so dependent on God and I am not much without God, I can feel the gardener become Jesus who looks at me and says, “John, I am right here.  I have always been with you to guide you, to take care of you because you belong to me, you are one of mine.  Your load may feel heavy, but I am here to lighten it.  Let me love you and have mercy on you so we can go together to our Father.”

As my eyes become cloudy, I let Jesus put his arm around me and we walk together.   I am no longer wondering where Jesus’ body has been placed, I know he has ascended to be with our father.  Hopefully, it will not be long before it’s my turn to ascend and be with the Holy Trinity.

Thank you, Lord, for taking care of me, for guiding me, for giving me your unconditional love, for having mercy on me.  May we rest in your peace.

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