By Father John P. Cush, STD
The Gospel proclaimed this Easter Sunday, taken from the Evangelist Saint John, places the focus on Saint Mary Magdalene. Liturgically, the Magdalene was raised to the level of a feast day in 2016, with her own proper preface to the Eucharistic Prayer of Mass.
Mary Magdalene is still a woman of mystery. There exists a question, both biblically and historically, of exactly who the Magdalene actually was.
In the long standing tradition of the Church, it was always understood that Mary Magdalene was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and was also the woman who washed the feet of the Lord Jesus.
There had been the universal acceptance in our Latin Church of the Magdalene as the same woman in these accounts was verified by Fathers of the Church like Saint Augustine of Hippo and Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
Saints like John Fisher, Thomas More, and Saint Thomas Aquinas also saw these three biblical figures as one, and the same, woman. More recent scholars have pointed out that Mary of Magdala’s identity was combined with these other biblical women.
Regardless, what can we say definitively about who the Magdalene really was? Well, she was not an Apostle of the Lord, but she certainly was a chief disciple and a leader among the followers of the Way of the Lord Jesus. She was a woman from whom the Lord had cast out seven demons and she was a benefactor and supporter of the proclamation of the Gospel, perhaps even financially.
We know that she was right there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, at the foot of the Cross, watching the man who was her personal Savior in agony on the terrible wood which would become the Tree of Life. When all the Apostles, with the exception of the Beloved Disciple, John, had fled, she was right there, a silent witness to the central event of human history.
Most importantly, it is the Magdalene, a woman, someone who was not respected as a credible witness by herself in the culture of her day, a woman with perhaps not so great a reputation, who was the first witness to the Lord’s resurrection.
It is the Magdalene who brings the message, the ultimate message that death has not claimed her love, her Lord, her Christ, to those who would bring that message to the ends of the earth. She is the Apostle to the Apostles.
A question for us today: who brings the good news of the Lord to us? Who are those people, by their words, by their actions, who bring the Lord to us, who make credible the Gospel in our daily lives? Is it our clergy, who, by their ordinations, are called to make Christ present to us in both word and sacrament?
Is it the men and women religious, consecrated brothers and sisters, who, by their following of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, draw our attention back to the realm of the Kingdom of God?
Is it the members of our families, our husbands, our wives, our children, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our extended families, who make Christ’s resurrection present to us? Is it our fellow parishioners, those whom we know, those whom we barely are aware of, who, in their dedication to parochial ministries, by their prayerfulness, inspire us to want to become better Catholic Christians? Who are the Mary Magdalenes in our lives?
This Resurrection Day, this Easter Sunday, take some time to reflect on the role of the Magdalenes in our lives and to thank God for this gift of witness to the faith.
Readings for Easter Sunday
Acts: 10:34 A, 37-43
Psalm: 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3: 1-4 (or)
1 Corinthians: 5: 6B-8
John: 20: 1-9
Father Cush is the Academic Dean at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State.