Apostle to the Apostles
Today we honor Saint Mary Magdalene, a largely confused and misunderstood figure. The Benedictine Ordo even found it necessary to clarify in its July 21 entry: "Tomorrow's celebration honours only Mary Magdalene to whom the Lord first appeared after his resurrection, not the sister of Lazarus and Martha nor the sinner of Lk 7:36-50." Even after the sensational publishing and filming of The Da Vinci Code put her again on the spot(light), she remains little known and poorly appreciated, if not more often intrigued or trivialized.
But Mary is such an important and meaningful figure in the Gospels. She is numbered among those who remained at the foot of the Cross. She was also among the women disciples who went early on the morning after the Sabbath to anoint the body of the Lord to whom a young man appeared and bid them go and tell the disciples about the Good News of the resurrection. According to John, she is the one to whom the Risen Lord first appeared.
Fittingly so. She was not among the Lord's privileged Twelve, nor was she his mother or relative, but she remained at the Lord's side and accompanied him to his bitter end. At the first opportunity, she dared go to honor the body of the Lord despite the great danger that forced the other disciples to hide in fear. Realizing that the body of her Lord was taken away, she wept so profusely that when two angels were not enough to console her, the Lord himself came to bring joy to her sorrow. Mary did not recognize the Lord at first. But recognizing him, she exclaimed "Rabbouni!" and went to embrace him.
Mary was a woman of great love. In traditional iconography, she is always portrayed wearing the red robes that signify love. She also bears an important message: The Lord is Risen and has appeared to her; one who has deeply and intimately encountered the Risen Lord who raised her from her grief to become 'apostle to the apostles'. She encountered the Risen Lord but only after sharing in his suffering and death that made her experience fully and profoundly the mystery of the Resurrection with her love that has endured the test of fidelity.
And so let us pray on this memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene that we may have some share in her great love: that we may persevere with the Lord in his suffering and death, to truly share in his Easter joy.