"She loved much!"- Celebrating St. Mary Magdalene

Painted by our sister, Sr. Maria Elena Alvarez, PDDM.
Please acknowledge if you use this image.
Dejection and expectancy, Life renewed! The earth stirs, the stone rumbles, Empty … utter fullness … Nothingness … fruition … “Mary!” … “Rabbouni!”

This is the dialogue which took place on the morning of Resurrection. It is a dialogue which we recall today, 22nd of July, as we celebrate the liturgical memorial of St. Mary of Magdala. Memorials in the Catholic tradition are not passive, they are an active participation in remembering.

Think of Mary of Magdala. Here she is, getting up after half a sleepless night, pacing the room, eyes puffed with tears, now half blindly searching for clothes, spices – and setting off for the tomb,
the focus of her anguish drawing her like a magnet. Those of you who know me know that I don't find it too easy to get up in the mornings. It would want to be pretty special to get me up! Yet Mary is awake and up . She was under the Cross when Jesus suffered and died, she was there waiting now, searching for answers as to where they had brought 'her Lord'. This had to be out of love and indeed love can make you do some crazy things. She is like the bride in the Song of Songs, "I sought him whom my heart loves. I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares and I will seek him whom my heart loves" (Song of Songs, 3,1-4).

The Gospel reminds us that Jesus takes us where we are at and doesn't force us beyond this. Mary is weeping but Jesus doesn't tell her to stop crying, He asks her 'why' she is crying. He doesn't try to provide her with explanations and reasons. He just calls her by name. 'Mary' is all He says. But this is enough. When Jesus pronounces her name, she recognises Him. Jesus pronounces our name every single day, every single moment but do we recognise Him? Tears of grief give way to tears of joy, and doubts begin to dissipate. We all make our own journey from despair to hope.

Painted by our sister, Sr. Maria Elena Alvarez, PDDM.
Please acknowledge if you use this image.
This is particularly fitting as today, I recall how ten years ago how on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I received the news from my novice mistress, that the Mother General and her Council, had admitted me to make my first Religious Profession. We were walking in the forest of Camaldoli in Italy, a most beautiful part of Abruzzo. So this particular saint remains dear to my heart. The Gospel text for my Perpetual Profession was actually the 'Anointing of Bethany' at which Mary of Magdala is present.  Our Rule of Life reminds us that we are  'like Mary, Mother of God, and the women of the Gospel, transformed by their meeting with the Risen Lord, the Beauty which saves the world, we are sent as apostles with the Apostles to proclaim, celebrate and serve him' (Rule of Life 9). We are also 'called to be open to the newness of Easter in order to collaborate in the construction of a redeemed humanity' (Rule of Life 26). 

What can I learn from Mary of Magdala? From her, I learn perseverance and endurance. Despite the desertion of all others, Mary would not give up. First at the tomb, and the last to go, and not until she had achieved her goal. So we must learn "that at the heart of every good work is to be found the virtue of perseverance." (St. Gregory). I feel that I am on the pilgrim way. At times, however, setbacks, failures and fruitless labours are paradoxically what God considers the most suitable ways to teach me in the ways of self-donation, trust and humility. Perseverance and endurance mean a conscious commitment towards growing to the ‘adult stature of Christ’ (Eph 4, 13), in faith, hope and charity. It has allowed me to acknowledge that beneath my resistances, my defences; there is a deep sanctuary capable of great love if I unite with Him and be His disciple, sent out to proclaim Good News!

However, Jesus does not leave Mary to bask in the moment for too long. She, as the first witness to the Resurrection, is sent out to proclaim. She is the first missionary,  the first to herald the Good News, she is chosen to be the grain of mustard seed for the Christian faith.

I share with you this reflection on who Mary of Magdala is, as presented in the Scriptures.
It was found here. Thanks to the author for the beautiful imagery! 

Mary Magdalene, what are you about,
as I follow your footsteps through the gospels?
You begin and you end with JESUS.

I see you at Simon’s house
with your perfumed oil,
and I find you again at the tomb,
carrying fragrant spices.

What are you about, Mary?
You are unique in the gospels,
as the one always at the feet of Jesus.

At your home, where Martha busied herself.
at the Cross with Our Lady.                                                                              
I never find you when you are not in adoration of Him.

Such faithful love did not go unnoticed.
You were the first to see Him after He rose.
“Mary,” He said,
And you were at His feet again.

Mary Magdalene, what are you about?
Tell me please,
that I too may follow in your way

And anoint today
the Adorable Face of JESUS,
with grateful love.

And sit at His feet,
washing them with
tears of repentance

And stand by the Cross,
consoling Him as I bear
my own little crosses.

And someday, behold Him
resurrected as you did,
and fall at His feet in worship.

Where are you going O Mary?
Take me along please!
For no greater words could I hear
Than those JESUS spoke of you:

“She loved much.”