Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of one of the most unfairly maligned woman in history: Mary Magdalene. For years she got a rap as a prostitute, and even today you hear some people speak of her that way despite the fact that the Vatican denounced that view in 1969.
What Mary Magdalene was, was a faithful disciple of Jesus. She was one of the people who followed him wherever he went. One of the few who didn’t run away at the end, but who stayed at the foot the cross until he died. And she was the first person to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection.
There are two options for the first Mass reading for today, one of which is a passage from the Song of Songs which I love.
On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him. I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves. I sought him but I did not find him. The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.
This passage is a fitting one for a celebration of Mary Magdalene, who loved and sought Jesus. The longing expressed in it presages the longing we see in St. John’s Gospel passage for today, in which we find Mary frantically searching for the body of Jesus.
And just as the passage in the Song of Songs ends with the triumphant expression of the one who finds “him whom my heart loves,” we see Mary’s joy when she realizes that the person she has taken for a gardener is the risen Jesus.
Today we celebrate a woman who Father Raymond-Leopold Bruckberger, O.P., describes as loving Christ “with all the force of her being.” May we all long for Jesus with the force with which she did.