My homily at the 8:00AM Mass – July 22, 2020
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church
Today we celebrate one of the greatest saints who has ever lived, the woman who, after the Blessed Virgin, is mentioned most in the Gospels: St. Mary Magdalene. And we celebrate her in a special way, as a liturgical Feast, which was upgraded from a Memorial in 2016 by Pope Francis for three specific reasons:
- St. Mary Magdalene is a witness of the transforming power of Divine Mercy.
- She is a model of the indispensable service and dignity of women in the Church, and
- She is an epitome of evangelization.
Today we can ponder five things about her, and what that means for our living our Christian life well.
The first is that she experienced Christ’s compassion and mercy. St. Luke and St. Mark tell us that she had had seven demons cast out from her. She had in some way been under the hold of the devil. Some saints throughout the centuries said that these seven demons may have been the seven deadly sins. Regardless of how her possession was manifested, she had experienced the healing power of the Lord. Like Mary Magdalen, we, too, need to relate to Jesus in his saving mercy. We too need his healing in our lives. When was the last time we received the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Secondly, St. Mary Magdalene shows us the dignity of women in God’s plan of salvation. She was one of the faithful women who cared for the Lord and the Church, shared in his mission, heard his teaching, and witnessed his deeds. St. Luke tells us that, after having received Christ’s mercy, she was one of several women “who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” who faithfully accompanied Jesus and the apostles during his journeys and “provided for them out of their resources”. We men can learn a great deal about faithfulness from our beloved sisters in Christ.
Third, St. Mary Magdalene was present with the Lord at his death and burial. St. Mary Magdalene was faithful with him to the end, standing at the foot of the Cross. She helped Mary and Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ body down and prepare it for burial. She returned to the tomb after the Sabbath to anoint his body. Her care for Christ and his mission is a model for every disciple: she loved Jesus, whose mercy transformed her life. Perhaps we can enter more deeply into Mary Magdalene’s spirituality by praying the Stations of the Cross more often.
Fourth, St. Mary Magdalene sought the Lord and loved him to such a degree that she was tortured by his absence. We see in the Gospel of today’s Mass that early on Easter morning, the first moment she could after the end of the Sabbath, she came to the tomb in order to anoint Jesus’ dead body. She was seeking him. She was lost without his guidance. Do we desire to be with the Lord with the same passion as Mary did? Do we spend time with him daily in prayer?
Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene shows us how to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with others. At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus commissions our saint, “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” She was the first person to whom the Risen Lord Jesus appeared and she was sent as the first witness of the Resurrection to the apostles, who were locked in the Upper Room.
Jesus commissioned Mary to be the apostolorum apostola, as St. Thomas Aquinas called her, the apostle to the apostles, the one sent to those who would be sent to bring the good news of great joy of Jesus’ resurrection to the entire world.
Mary went to the apostles and announced simply, “I have seen the Lord!” and then reported to them what Jesus had told her. Likewise, all of us are called by Christ to share with others joyfully the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and witness how he has changed our lives. The fifth lesson St. Mary Magdalene teaches us is how to spread this good news, the greatest gift we could give to others.
Finally, see how these lessons that we learn from St. Mary Magdalene find their culmination in the Mass.
- It’s here at the beginning of Mass that we cry out, “Lord have mercy!” and “I have greatly sinned,” opening ourselves up to God’s forgiveness.
- It’s here that we listen to him speaking to us live in the Gospel.
- It’s here that we associate ourselves in his work, giving ourselves and our resources at the offertory as we unite our sacrifices to those of Christ to be presented to the Father.
- It’s here that Jesus gives us the body and blood that he sacrificed for our salvation on Calvary.
- It’s here that we receive with longing his risen body and blood.
- It’s from here that he sends us to announce to the whole world his resurrection.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.