Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Were you there?" Mary Magdalene, the most faithful disciple

"When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene." (Mark 16.9)

It is interesting to note that the two times Jesus birth is announced to humanity, that incredible message is delivered to women named Mary. In the Annunciation as it is revealed that the Word will become Flesh, the message is of course delivered by the angel to Mary, the Blessed Mother. And today as Jesus rebirth through the wonder of Resurrection is announced to humanity, it is another Mary - this time Mary of Magdala - who is the first to receive this news.

First, a word on Mary Magdalene. It is important to correct a fake news story that has lingered in the church for hundreds, if not more than a thousand years. Mary of Magdalene is not the woman caught in adultery. For too long, there has been a combination of several stories of the women of the Gospel into this Mary. But, there is really no evidence for this. In fact, not only is Mary Magdalene not a prostitute, she was likely a very well placed woman in her culture which was notable for a time when women did not have much of a place aside from the men they were attached to. We know this even by her name. She is not Mary, the wife of so-and-so, or the daughter of that man, or the sister of another. She has a name all her own, Mary of Magdala, a sign that she was an influential woman in the city of Magdala. Talk about a lingering case of "fake news!"

(Great story on this can be found here: Who framed Mary Magdalene?)

Mary Magdalene holds the second place in the New Testament for the presence of women. She is mentioned 12 times, second only to the Blessed Mother. But even all of this is not the reason why Mary had the singular privilege of being the first to see the Risen Christ. She receives this honor for a very simple reason - Mary was there.

By this, I don't mean that she had the luck of the draw to be in the right place at the right time; rather Mary was there through it all. I think of the hymn Were You There? that we sung throughout Lent and so prominently during Holy Week. This could be Mary Magdalene's hymn. Were you there when Jesus preached to the crows? Mary was there. Were you there when he cured the sick and even raised the dead? Mary was there. Were you there when he was arrested and scourged at the pillar? Mary was there. Were you there when he walked the path to Calvary carrying the weight of the cross and the weight of our sins? Mary was there. Were you there as Jesus died for us, was taken down from the Cross, and laid in a tomb? Mary was there. Were you there when they rolled the stone away and Jesus exited risen from the dead as He promised? Mary was there.

Mary Magdalene in fact shows herself to be the most faithful of all the disciples. She never wavered, she never doubted, she never ran. Mary was there. Even as the other disciples denied, ran, or hid in fear, Mary remained faithful to the Lord whom she loved.

And so it is no wonder that Jesus would reward that fidelity by appearing first to the woman who was there for Him through it all. For all of her faithfulness throughout His public life, Mary of Magdala saw the Risen Lord before the world.

May we be inspired by her faithfulness and know that if we too remain close to Jesus, we will also be given the grace of seeing Him. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

May the Lord give you peace!

- FT

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