SAINT OF THE DAY: 22 JULY, 2013

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SAINT MARY MAGDALEN
Memorial

Or the earlier life of Mary Magdalen we know only that she was “a woman who was a sinner.” From the depth of her degradation she raised her eyes to Jesus with sorrow, hope, and love.

All covered with shame, she came in where Jesus was at meat, and knelt behind him. She said not a word, but bathed his feet with her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, kissed them in humility, and at their touch her sins and her stain were gone. Then she poured on them the costly unguent prepared for far other uses; and his own divine lips rolled away her reproach, spoke her absolution, and bade her go in peace.

Thenceforward she ministered to Jesus, sat at his feet, and heard his words. She was one of the family “whom Jesus so loved” that He raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. Once again, on the eve of his Passion, she brought the precious ointment, and, now purified and beloved, poured it on his head, and the whole house of God is still filled with the fragrance of her anointing.

She stood with Our Lady and St. John at the foot of the cross, the representative of the many who have had much forgiven.

To her first, after his blessed Mother, and through her to his apostles, Our Lord gave the certainty of his resurrection; and to her first He made Himself known, calling her by her name.

According to French tradition when the faithful were scattered by persecution the family of Bethany found refuge in Provence.

The cave in which St. Mary lived for thirty years is still seen, and the chapel on the mountaintop, in which she was caught up daily, like St. Paul, to “visions and revelations of the Lord.”

When her end drew near she was borne to a spot still marked by a “sacred pillar,” where the holy Bishop Maximin awaited her; and when she had received her Lord, she peacefully fell asleep in death.

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She longed for Christ, though she thought he had been taken away

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples.

After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away.

And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object.

Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love.

As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself.

And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

Saint Gregory the Great (c.540-604), Pope, Doctor of the Church (Homily on the Gospel of John; PL 76, 1189-1193)

(SOURCE: Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894] &The Liturgy of the Hours )

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