Mary Magdalene came to The Tomb and found the soldiers on guard as dead men, with the Angel of The Lord sitting atop the grave boulder, which He had moved, saying The Crucified Lord is not here. As He is Risen, behold, see an empty tomb.
HOMILY (Lengthened Blog version)
On this Easter Morn, we hear the Matthew 28 account of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleopas at the tomb of Our Lord, and then of the encounter of the Risen Jesus. Last night at the Easter Vigil I preached on one of these women and of her inspiration to us. It was of “the other Mary,” Mary of Cleophas. Today I preach on Mary Magdalene and of her inspiration to us. Both women were present for the whole Paschal Mystery: They were there for the suffering Lord Jesus , and below Him as He died on the Cross, as well as coming to Jesus’ tomb to pray, therefore, putting themselves in place as the early witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection.
At the Cross, Mary Magdalene was a silent witness. No words are recorded of her, only long sobs– as we hear Jesus address her later, “woman, why are you weeping?” Jesus saw her weeping below His Cross of Sacrifice. It moved Him to see His friend there for Him to the end. So, He would meet her here on the First Easter’s dawn, as her great consolation and new hope.
Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as God’s Love revealed to the world. She had been amazed with HIm, even since her deliverance from her darkness. As she saw Jesus on the Cross, she might have commented to the soldiers: “He won’t really need the nails, for His Love could hold Him up there. He dies in the fullest Gift of Love ever.”
Mary Magdalen was one of the “three Mary’s” at the Cross. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary of Cleophas, and her made for the faithful trio. Mary Magdalene was different from the other two, in that she was not related to the Savior by family ties. The Blessed Mother was Jesus’ true mother, and Mary of Cleophas was Mary’s sister-in-law. Our Mary was a Galilean woman from Magdala, a city more known to be influenced by Gentile than Jewish life. Yet Mary of Magdala would meet Jesus and become one of His closest disciples. As for new family ties, Jesus had said one time that “those who hear the Word of God and keep to it are mother, brother, sister–or family– to me now.” Mary Magdalene certainly fit that description of Jesus’ new extended family by faith. We have learned it, too, today, that if we accept Jesus the Word and keep with Him– in Scripture, in love and service, in Sacrament, as members of His body, the Church– then we are called Jesus’ brothers and sisters. My opening address to you was as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus– just to acknowledge that family tie we have!
In Luke 8, we hear how Mary met Jesus while she was under the possession of darkness. Jesus heals her out of seven demons. What those sins or evil spirits were–we don’t exactly know. Yet she had a full recovery. 7 is a number that denotes fullness. You know it as such, such as of the 7-fold Gift of the Spirit or 7 days of creation or 7 Sacraments. Mary of Magdala will be a changed, whole woman now. Because Jesus will later call her “woman” as in Matthew 28, it tells us that she is a woman of the new creation in Christ. He came to bring us back into Grace, like humankind had in the Garden of Eden. In fact, as John’s Gospel describes Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in that first public, official Resurrection account— it is in a Garden, on purpose. Jesus is first the mistaken Gardener, in John 20, until Mary cries “Rabboni” in recognition of her Lord standing there. She knew Jesus when He called her name. It is the same for us awaiting after death; Jesus will call us by Name and welcome us into Paradise with Him.
On Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, the Church gives the Song of Songs as the first reading, denoting our Mary as the one seeking the Lord as like the dove figure in that Biblical book about God and humankind drawing nearer to our full reunion. This figure in the Song of Songs so desires to be one with her Lover.
I’d like to suggest here how Mary Magdalene is our saintly model of desire to be close with the Lord God of love. We need to want Him so dearly, too. What made this disciple so want to be near Jesus, that even after death she arises as dawn’s early light to go to Jesus’ tomb, even bringing spices, if perhaps the guards would let her in to pay her respects? Let us pray for desire for Jesus! There is a title of The Lord’s Anointed that befits this suggestion: He is the “Desire of Nations.” (From Haggai chapter 2.)
Mary Magdalene has the soul need for God. Jesus is God–so she needs to be near Him.
Jesus accepts her close to Himself. As we have learned from His episode in Bethany, in letting two women sit at His feet and be taught as disciples– Mary of Magdala would have had that opportunity from her Luke 8 meeting with Him and on.
Sometimes Mary Magdalene is given a mistaken identity or even a disparaging one– as Jesus’ intimate lover on earth, as in girlfriend or wife. Shame on those who say such things, as they reveal in that ignorance or pride that they don’t know what kind of intimacy Jesus offers His followers. John the apostle and Lazarus of Bethany were so close to Jesus, they get identified, too, as “the one Jesus loved.” Mary of Magdala was a pure and close relationship to Jesus, showing what the kingdom of God offers anew.
By the way, Mary of Magdala meets Jesus in Luke 8, so the harlot woman who meets Jesus in Luke 7 is a different person. Yet the same thing applies– Jesus would have women followers, and some were of those whom He had healed and converted– and they now were disciples, like the others, and with the apostles.
Mary Magdalene is a chosen example for Christians to follow, probably thanks to how John the Apostle appreciated her. Under the Cross, John was there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he did take notice how Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” was there, too. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find that Jesus is Risen, it is to John, and Peter, that the news is delivered. With Mary Magdalene, she is the symbol of humanity renewed by the grace of God, and bathed into the Paschal Mystery, for a new start to the world for the people of God. We live in the world now with Jesus. Jesus is the Gardener of our garden of soul and body, working us to redemption to Glory.
The Tree of Calvary becomes the Tree of Life’s new start, and the Garden of our seeking in faith and hope is where we find the Risen Lord, by faith, more than sight. Yet He will present Himself as Sacrament to our senses. Still, we are to know Him first by the heart and soul. Mary calls Jesus by her favorite name for Him: Rabboni. She teaches us that we need to know our Savior so well, that perhaps we even have a special Name for Him. Why? Because we are in a personal relationship with Jesus.
It is Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Cleophas (whom I preached about on the Easter Vigil and copied to the parish pastor’s blog), along with Salome who seeking Jesus on that first Easter morn. In imitation, you and I have come this Easter morn seeking Jesus. Mary Magdalene and her firsts see Jesus and go prostate to kneel and worship Jesus. It is what we come here to do on Easter 2017: to bow and worship, and to be glad we have a Risen Lord.
What happens to Mary Magdalene later? We know she is a witness for the Church in the Holy Land for 14 years after Jesus’ Resurrection. The non-accepting Jews of Israel resist the movement of Jesus and this Way of the Lord (Christianity), and they put Mary Magdalene adrift on a large boat without oars, to ban her from Israel, and on that same vessel is said to be Martha of Bethany, Maximillian, Sinonius (the healed blind man of Jesus’ miracle), the Magdalene’s servant Sera, and the remains of Anne, Jesus’ grandmother. They end up floating to Gaul, which is now known as France. Mary Magdalene continues as an evangelist there, and a Basilica attests to that, in southern France, and Mary dies at 72 as a mystic in a cave dwelling, matching what the Song of Songs says as a “dove cooing her voice in the clefts, longing for her Love of Loves.” The testimony is given, that like Mary Magdalen met the Angel at the tomb, so would she sees angels through her lifetime, even being ministered by them in her final days.”
This homily about Mary Magdalene is meant to reflect back on the One she so honored with her life–the Meaning of Easter. JESUS is the Risen One. HE is our Love. HE is our New Life and Hope. HE is the One whom we seek for a fullest knowing of Him, and WHO so promises us that such will be given to us, even in an Everlasting Way.
Mary’s seeking so diligently for The Lord, and not giving up, nor letting up after a Risen Jesus visit, tells us the same, as the Scriptures reminds us: “It is whoever perseveres to the end who will be saved (Matt. 24:13).” So seek the Lord fully! The Lord has much to show us, even forever and ever, to our highest happiness!
Mary of Magdala also tells us to gather with others in this faith. Jesus says to her, as in today’s Gospel, ‘tell the Good News that I Am Alive, then tell the apostles and others to go gather as one back to Galilee, where everything begins again with you.” Mary tells Peter, and after they find Thomas, all go back to begin anew with Jesus: together. Peter and the Church have been one since that time, when at Pentecost, the Spirit came to them to be the one, inspired, holy, out-to-the-world Church. Amen.
we begin anew in Galilee– go tell Peter.