Friday, July 22, 2011

On the Magdalen....

As today brings the feast of the "Apostle to the Apostles" -- a figure who's come to be "rediscovered" of sorts by a wider crowd over recent years -- two B16 reflections on Mary Magdalene....

First, from a 2006 Angelus:
Yesterday, we celebrated the liturgical Memorial of St Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord who plays a lead role in the Gospels. St Luke lists her among the women who followed Jesus after being "healed of evil spirits and infirmities", explaining that "seven demons had gone out" from her (Lk 8: 2).

The Magdalene would be present beneath the Cross with the Mother of Jesus and other women. In the early morning on the first day after the Sabbath she was to be the one to discover the empty tomb, beside which she stood weeping until the Risen Jesus appeared to her (cf. Jn 20: 11).

The story of Mary of Magdala reminds us all of a fundamental truth: a disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.
...and from a General Audience talk during Easter Week 2007:
In these days [of the Octave of Easter], the liturgy recalls Jesus' various encounters after his Resurrection: with Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to the tomb at the crack of dawn the day after the Sabbath; with the Apostles who gathered unbelieving in the Upper Room; with Thomas and other disciples....

The Evangelist John recounts that when Peter and he heard Mary Magdalene's news, they ran to the sepulchre each trying as it were to outstrip the other (cf. Jn 20: 3ff.). The Fathers of the Church have seen in their haste to reach the empty tomb an exhortation to compete in the only legitimate race between believers: the competition in seeking Christ.

And what can be said of Mary Magdalene? She stood weeping by the empty tomb with the sole desire to know where they had taken her Lord. She encounters him and only recognizes him when he calls her by name (cf. Jn 20: 11-18). If we seek the Lord with a simple and sincere mind, we too will find him; indeed, he himself will come to meet us; he will make us recognize him, he will call us by name, that is, he will admit us to the intimacy of his love....

To Mary Magdalene the Lord said: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (Jn 20: 17). These words surprise us, especially if we compare them to what, on the other hand, happened to Doubting Thomas. There in the Upper Room, the Risen One himself presented his hands and his side to the Apostle so that he could touch them and thereby be sure that it was truly he (cf. Jn 20: 27).

In fact, the two episodes are not contradictory. On the contrary, the one helps us to understand the other.

Mary Magdalene would have wanted to have her Lord as he was before, considering the Cross a tragic memory to be forgotten. Henceforth, however, there was no longer room for a merely human relationship with the Risen One. To meet him, we must not turn back but relate to him in a new way. We must move ahead! St Bernard underlines this: Jesus "invites us all to this new life, to this passing.... We will not see Christ with a backward glance"....

It is towards the future, in fact, that we now turn our gaze. The disciple's task is to witness to the death and Resurrection of his Master and to his new life. For this reason Jesus invited his unbelieving friend to "touch him": he wanted him to witness directly to his Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, we too, like Mary Magdalene, Thomas and the other Apostles, are called to be witnesses of Christ's death and Resurrection. We cannot keep this important news to ourselves. We must convey it to the whole world: "We have seen the Lord!"