St Mary Magdalene

(entered heaven in the first century)

Dear Max,

Feeling frazzled and overworked again?  Stressed out? Can’t seem to manage your time well?  Funny that that should start happening in the summer as well as during the school year.  I am glad I received your note last night since today’s saint has the antidote to your turmoil.

According to the Roman liturgy (that’s the one that we Roman Catholics follow, the one the Pope follows), today’s saint appears under three guises in the New Testament: the woman who was a public sinner (Luke 8) and a public penitent, whose sins Jesus forgave, much to the scandal of his Pharisee host; Mary Magdalene the Lord’s disciple (John 20); and Mary of Bethany (Luke 10), sister to Martha and Lazarus.  Though identifying these three personages as one person is still challenged by Christians in the east (and even some Catholics), it coheres with one of those ancient traditions that are difficult to refute. Mary was a public sinner whose heart was moved to repentance by the Lord. From then on, she devoted herself to following him, serving him, and living out his doctrine. Most ancient writers agree that after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension, she went with St John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary to Ephesus, where she dedicated herself to prayer and works of charity until she died.  Through the centuries she has become the archetypal Christian figure of conversion, and also of contemplation. It is this latter point that interests us right now.

You may remember the scene from Luke 10.  Jesus and his band of Apostles are spending the evening with Lazarus and his sisters in Bethany.  Martha is busy preparing the meal, setting the table, getting everything ready for a feast with the Lord and his Twelve Hungry Men (no small task).  Meanwhile, Jesus and the gang are sitting in the living room (or the ancient Palestinian equivalent), talking. Mary, Martha’s sister, is placidly and devotedly seated at Christ’s feet, listening carefully to him and enjoying the incomparable sweetness of his presence.  Martha starts to make some noise in the kitchen, clears her throat, rushes busily through the living room once or twice – but Mary takes no notice. Finally, Martha goes right up to the Jesus and says, “Lord, are you content that my sister should leave me to do the serving alone?  Come, bid her help me.” Jesus, unperturbed, answered, “Martha, Martha, how many cares and troubles you have! But only one thing is necessary; and Mary has chosen for herself the best part of all, that which shall never be taken away from her.”

There you have it, my busy young nephew.  You are yet again following in Martha’s footsteps, and you need to balance yourself out by seasoning your agenda with a little bit of Mary’s secret recipe – silence and prayer.  Choose the best part, Max, and perhaps Christ will reward you as he rewarded Mary Magdalene (she was the first one to see the Risen Jesus).

Prayerfully yours, Uncle Eddy

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