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Seeking Even in the Dark
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
John 20:1-2, 11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, I believe you are with me now as I turn to you in prayer. I want to focus on you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I trust in your love for me and your desire to give me everything I need to follow you. Help me hear you call my name in this time together. I want to know what it is you ask of me so that I can live as your light in the world. Thank you for your love and for the gift of faith. Jesus, I trust in you.
- It Was Still Dark: Mary loved Jesus. He had delivered her from seven demons, and she was one of the women who accompanied Jesus and his disciples, providing for Jesus and the Twelve out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3). She was one of the women with St. John and the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross, accompanying Jesus in his agony (John 19:24-25). When Jesus died and was taken down from the cross, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid” (Mark 15:47). The next morning, when the Sabbath ended (Mark 16:1), Mary went to the tomb so early that it was still dark. She couldn’t wait to care for her Lord’s body, to anoint it with spices (Mark 16:1). She sought him in the darkness, knowing that light was coming. Mary’s life had been transformed by the Lord, and she continued to seek him out and serve him even after his death. Mary’s love for Jesus was steadfast, persevering through the most difficult circumstances because her heart was full of gratitude.
- Mary!: Jesus taught that he is the Good Shepherd, that he calls his sheep by name, and that they recognize his voice and follow him (John 10:3,14). Here Mary recognized Jesus when he called her by name. In her angst at not finding the Lord’s body in the tomb, she was frantic. She ran to Peter and John and told them that Jesus was missing. She was not consoled by the angels at the tomb. And she didn’t recognize Jesus himself, thinking he was a gardener. She was caught up in her sorrow. But when Jesus called her name, she recognized him instantly. Like Mary, we can easily get caught up in difficult circumstances and fail to recognize the Lord. In these situations, it is important to keep our focus on looking for Jesus. When we persevere, we will have the joy of hearing him call our name.
- Apostle to the Apostles: Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Lord, and she “went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and then reported what he told her.” Describing Mary Magdalene’s role, St. Thomas Aquinas called her the “Apostle to the Apostles,” and in 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship, “by the express wish of Pope Francis,” elevated her memorial celebration to the level of a feast, of the same significance as the other Apostles. In the General Audience for May 17, 2017, Pope Francis directed our attention to Mary: “Mary would like to embrace her Lord, but he is already oriented towards the heavenly Father, whereas she is sent to carry the news to the brethren. And so that woman, who, before encountering Jesus, had been at the mercy of evil (Luke 8:2) now becomes the Apostle of the new and greatest hope. May her intercession help us in times of woe and abandonment to listen to the Risen Jesus who calls us by name, and, with a heart full of joy, to go forth and proclaim: “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for calling me by name. As I spend this time with you, help me see your presence in those dark and difficult challenges of my life. Open my heart and mind to being sent by you to those who need to encounter you. St. Paul wrote, “The love of Christ impels us…” (1Corinthians 5:14), and St. Mary Magdalene models that desire and urgency to share her experience. Help me continue to seek you as Mary Magdalene did so that I too can share your love with enthusiasm and joy.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look for an opportunity to share a story of God’s action in my life with at least one person.
For Further Reflection: A Retreat Guide: The Apostle of the Apostles is a reflection on St. Mary Magdalene and is available through the RCSpirituality center in audio, video, and written formats. Also published by RCSpirituality and available for purchase is Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband Chris live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.