Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Mary Magdalene, faithful disciple of Christ. Until last year, we referred to this day as her “memorial,” but Pope Francis elevated the memorial to a feast day, giving her the same level of celebration as the other apostles.
Maligned for centuries, all we know of her origins is that she was a woman “from whom seven demons had gone out.” What we do know from the Gospels is that she was one of the women who followed Jesus to the cross and who stayed there while the male disciples fled.
We also know that Mary was the first to actually see the risen Jesus, and today’s Gospel recounts that beautiful scene. What is apparent from the encounter of these two is how much she loved Jesus. (Father Raymond-Leopold Bruckberger, O.P., once wrote that Mary loved Christ “with all the force of her being.”) We can see evidence of that love in the grief Mary displays outside of the tomb when she discovered Jesus’ body is gone. We see it in her tears and frantic search for any information she can find that will help her find the body. And we see it in her joy when she realizes that the person she has taken for a gardener is, in fact, the risen Jesus.
Today’s first Mass reading from the Song of Songs expresses beautifully Mary’s love and longing for her Lord:
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.
Blessings on this feast of Mary Magdalene. May be have her longing for union with God.