Today’s Gospel: John 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene is a controversial figure in modern times. Because so little is known about her, questions arise over just who she was: was she a woman of the streets? Was she a disciple? Did she become a leader and example in the early Church? Perhaps most importantly, has she been historically maligned by her reputation as a repentant sinner, and reduced to only that?
We need go no further than today’s reading to know who Mary was. The gospel paints a curious picture. The Lord, risen glorious from the tomb, is hanging around the garden, wondering to himself, “How will I break it gently to my followers that I have risen?” Then Mary arrives, weeping and explaining to the angels in a reasonable voice the cause of her distress. Suddenly the Lord has a solution: “I will send Mary to announce the good news of my resurrection!” When he engages her in a conversation, her mind is still on finding Jesus: “If you have taken my Lord,” she orders the Stranger, “tell me where he is so I can carry him away.” Even as Mary is confronting him, earnest in her desire to anoint her Lord’s sacred body, Jesus looks directly at her and speaks her name, “Mary!” and she recognizes him. Mary embraces him and holds on in sheer wonder and joy.
Who was Mary Magdalene? She is the one who was there when the Lord had need of her, the one who was not paralyzed by her grief, but who took action to perform the works of mercy despite the real danger. Instead of hiding away, she was ready to confront the guards (she did not know they had fled). She even dialogues with angels in her search for Christ. She is the first one sent by the Lord to announce the gospel (“good news”) of his victory over death. She is the one with undying love and hope, and as today’s Psalm 33 says, her soul waits for the Lord who is her help and her shield, and so the kindness of the Lord is upon her who has put her hope in God. She is Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles (“apostle” means one sent).
Mary is a saint to be emulated, especially for women. Not only because she repented of her sins, but even more because she was chosen to announce the gospel. What a wonderful model for us as women! We, too, can be the Lord’s followers, even though we have no special title and are seldom honored for our works.
During this Paschal week, let us pray to be like her in her spirit of evangelizing love!
Am I ready to share the gospel with my brothers and sisters, and do I persevere in prayer even when all seems lost, as it must have seemed to Mary Magdalene?
Lord, with your grace, may I persevere in searching for you so that I may be ready when you reveal yourself and be courageous in announcing the good news. Amen.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola