Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). John 20:16
Today we honor and remember Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles. Mary comes first to the empty tomb; Mary tells the other disciples the tomb is empty and she has seen the Risen Christ. Mary Magdalene remained by Jesus’s side throughout the crucifixion, never deserting him or running away. She came early in the morning after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus’s dead body only to discover the body was not there.
Mary had anointed Jesus once before her early morning walk to the tomb. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” (Luke 7:47). She most likely is the woman who entered the dinner party and weeping, anointed Jesus with costly ointment to the dismay of the host. (Luke 7:40-50) Mary’s love for Jesus and openness to an intimate connection to him are signs of gratitude for a spiritual transformation.
The host in this Gospel story calls Mary Magdalene a sinner, though the sin is not named. For their own reasons some earlier church leaders decided the sin was prostitution, a story gaining more ground in the Middle Ages. More likely Mary had been a wealthy woman who sought to fill the spiritual hole in her heart with material goods and possibly wild parties.
Mary is an example of faithfulness to Jesus no matter the circumstance, and she seems to have understood his message best of all those who followed him. Perhaps because she had reached the depths of spiritual emptiness before she met Jesus her heart and spirit were more open to understanding Jesus’s gift of forgiveness and new life.
On her feast day, I invite us all to take a closer look at Mary Magdalene and to follow her spiritual leadership in giving herself fully to Jesus and then taking her own place in leading others to a closer relationship with God and deep heart understanding of the kingdom or realm of God.
Mary understood the reality of this realm and most importantly, “through it you will never be separated from anyone or anything you have ever loved, for love is the ground in which you live, move and have your being. This is the message that Mary Magdalene has perennially to bring.” (Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene.)
Let us pray.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen