Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Feast: July 22
Feast Day:July 22
1st century AD, Magdala
Died:1st century AD, Ephesus, Asia Minor or Marseilles, France
Patron of:apothecaries; contemplative life; converts; glove makers; hairdressers; penitent sinners; people ridiculed for their piety; perfumeries; pharmacists; reformed prostitutes; sexual temptation; tanners; women

Is it a coincidence that in the Liturgical calendar for Year C, on July 21st we hear the story of Martha and  Mary, and July 22nd is the Feast day of  Mary Magdalene? I've heard that some  scholars do believe that the two Maries are the same person. As it turns out (according to the EWTN Saints page) this may be a more widespread opinion than I thought! The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons: Mary,
* the "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50;
* the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and
* Mary Magdalen.
On the other hand most, of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics and Theologians, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons, and aggressively assert that this is the only possible interpretation of this story. 

 Unlike many of our saints, it would be pretty hard to speak about this woman as a historical figure. All we know is what the Gospel writers say of her. And she is mentioned quite a few times in the Gospels, but it's still difficult for us to formulate an accurate picture based on these little snippets. We can at least say know she accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3); that she had seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9); that she is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49);that  she saw Christ laid in the tomb. It's also important to note that, as we see in Monday's Gospel passage, she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. But what Catholics love her for, is that she is a model of repentance. Her experience of Christ was so powerful that she was given the courage to transform her entire life and follow him.

Reflection:   I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine about her  very troubled love life. She kept telling me about this guy she had met that was the love of her life. Even when the guy was out of the picture, every week it was same old 'do you think he's thinking about me? I'll never love like this again". I expect that from teenagers, but not from a grown woman, so I've been getting a little impatient with her.   The cause for my impatience, is that I guess, like many of my generation, I believe in moving on when it's time to move on in relationships. I especially, do not think clinging to the past, or even to some idealized understanding of the present is healthy for anyone.  Mine can be a very safe, rational, and even logical understanding of  love.  The thing is, love  doesn't have to be any of these things. In fact, love is at it's best when it's  the opposite! 
 It's what we're reminded of in the Song of Songs of Solomon. This is a book that many non believers would be shocked to find in the Bible. It opens with the line " let me kiss him.."  and for a large part of this short book , explores  the longing for one's lover. The obvious imagery is that God is the lover, longing for his children (the beloved) to return to Him (Her, in this case!). It does get a little descriptive at time, and I don't always know how to respond to it! However, in Monday's passage, the imagery is quite poignant on its own...I have very little to add to it. If you ask 'why was it Chosen for the feast day of Mary Magdelene', I'll simply say...really...the longing is key. Think of Mary on the day of the resurection, longing for her Jesus, her Rabouni. Her grief going to the tomb  must have been overpowering, and her confusion, coupled with a sense of great joy, even stronger as she left the tomb. She was ready to cling to her Lord, to never let him go again. In that sense, to me, she becomes the lover in the Song of Songs who yearns for and searches high and low for her lover. She  also reminds me of the Psalmist,  who proclaims to God '...your ...love...is better than life itself.' Even the Psalmist uses the word 'cling'.

It's a powerful theme for Monday, especially as we reach the Gospel reading, which is usualy read during the Easter season. Once Mary realizes that it's Jesus who is standing in front of her, her instinct is to lunge for him of course, and to never let go. 'do not cling to me' he says. If anyone else where to hear that today, they'd be heart broken. The only person you love is telling you to  let them go???  Yes, but his message is more powerful than that. He's really saying to her 'let your love for me be as strong as my love for you, and let it fuel you as you go out and tell the world about this love God has for all creation". Upon hearing these words, what else Could Mary do run....and proclaim to her brothers what she had heard.  For that reason, what's most powerful about Mary for me is not her repentence, but the depth of her love for Christ. May we all learn to love so deeply, and not just love individuals, but love the entire world, as God did in the every begining.


Song of Songs 3:1-4

1 On my bed at night I sought the man who is my sweetheart: I sought but could not find him!
2 So I shall get up and go through the city; in the streets and in the squares, I shall seek my sweetheart. I sought but could not find him!
3 I came upon the watchmen -- those who go on their rounds in the city: 'Have you seen my sweetheart?'
4 Barely had I passed them when I found my sweetheart. I caught him, would not let him go, not till I had brought him to my mother's house, to the room where she conceived me!
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your glory.
3 Better your faithful love than life itself; my lips will praise you.
4 Thus I will bless you all my life, in your name lift up my hands.
5 All my longings fulfilled as with fat and rich foods, a song of joy on my lips and praise in my mouth.
6 On my bed when I think of you, I muse on you in the watches of the night,
8 my heart clings to you, your right hand supports me.
9 May those who are hounding me to death go down to the depths of the earth,

Gospel, John 20:1-2, 11-18

1 It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb
2 and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,' she said, 'and we don't know where they have put him.'
11 But Mary was standing outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, as she wept, she stooped to look inside,
12 and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet.
13 They said, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she replied, 'and I don't know where they have put him.'
14 As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not realise that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?' Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.'
16 Jesus said, 'Mary!' She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbuni!' -- which means Master.
17 Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my Godand your God.'

18 So Mary of Magdala told the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord,' and that he had said these things to her.

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