Tag Archives: Mary Magdalene

Gospel Reflection for April 16, 2017, Easter Sunday

13 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts.34, 37-43; Colossians 3.1-4; John 20.1-9 (and John 20.10-18 to read Mary Magdalene’s part in the Easter story)

“Then the disciple who arrived first at the tomb went in, saw, and believed.” – John 20.9
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the lord.” – John 20.18

The Easter Sunday gospel ends with the beloved disciple’s model faith. He sees the empty tomb and believes. Neither on Easter Sunday nor the Second Sunday of Easter does the Church proclaim Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus risen. Without Mary Magdalene staying and grieving at the empty tomb, the Easter gospel presents only the mystery of the empty tomb but not the full revelation that Jesus is risen.

Significantly, Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in a garden, a setting that echoes the Genesis garden and suggests Easter is a new day of creation. First two angels and then a man she supposes to be the gardener ask Mary Magdalene, “Why are you weeping?” When the supposed gardener speaks her name, Mary Magdalene recognizes her teacher, risen and present. Jesus commissions her to tell the other disciples, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene becomes the apostle to the apostles as she returns to Jesus’ followers and announces, “I have seen the Lord.” She is the first preacher of the good news that Jesus is risen. She shares with them that we share Jesus’ relationship with God. Jesus entrusts us as his brothers and sisters to his mission in the world.

Which disciple who goes to the empty tomb on Easter morning are you most like? Who responds as you would? The beloved disciple who sees the empty tomb and believes? Peter who goes back to the community of Jesus’ followers without saying anything? Mary Magdalene who stays at the tomb and grieves Jesus’ death, encounters Jesus risen, and then becomes the apostle of his good news to the others?

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Gospel Reflection for June 12, 2016, 11th Sunday Ordinary Time

7 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 12.7-10; Galatians 2.16, 19-21; Luke 7.36-8.3

“Do you see this woman?”

(Luke 7.44)

“Accompanying Jesus were the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities — Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”

(Luke 8.3)

Sunday’s scriptures treat us to biblical soap opera — sex, sin, and extravagant repentance in both Old Testament and New. Sinner is the label that identifies the woman who models repentance in Sunday’s gospel — Luke’s memorable story of a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.

Sinner is a label little used today. Our news reports murder, fraud, sexual abuse, arson, robbery as crimes and acts of violence rather than sin. Sin is a religious word, which literally means missing the mark. In the bible sin refers to breaking the terms of the covenant relationship Israel made with God — the ten commandments. In Jesus’ time one could be labeled sinner for not keeping dietary laws or working with Gentiles as tax collectors did.

The woman labeled sinner in Sunday’s gospel has no name. That has not stopped commentators through the centuries from identifying her as Mary Magdalene. The four gospels hold no such evidence. The gospels contain maddening silences, nameless characters, and gestures from a culture 2,000 years ago that we readers must interpret. This Sunday’s gospel challenges us to look past labels and appreciate who people really are, especially when they change.

When have you connected the wrong dots and misinterpreted a person or interaction?

Read more about the woman who loved too much and about Mary Magdalene in Sunday by Sunday. If you like learning more about the women of the gospels, click here to subscribe.

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Gospel Reflection for April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday

31 Mar

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34,37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 (Easter Vigil: Mark 16.1-7);  John 20.1-9 (10-18)

“I have seen the Lord,” Mary Magdalene announces to the community of Jesus’ disciples when she returns from encountering her Teacher on Easter morning (John 20.18). Jesus sends her as the apostle to the apostles to tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” We share Jesus’ relationship with God. That’s a wow.

Personally I am a late comer to relationship with Jesus. It is creation that awakened me to divine presence in the world—in the flowering ditches of my childhood and the meadows of mountain hikes.  It is the wonder of seeds sprouting, rooting, growing, multiplying that grounds my faith. In my deepest adult experience of God it is the Spirit I found underlying my existence, affirming I was okay.

Jesus lives his life so fast. He encounters opposition as soon as he opens his mouth in Galilee. Although he prays that God take the cup of suffering from him, he faces it. In the three short last days he makes bread and wine signs of his wholehearted self-giving; he undergoes the pain and humiliation of his passion, and dies on the cross.

However, now that I am older and go to funerals for family and more frequently, I see the Lord in lives lived long and slowly, lives poured out over years of days for spouses and children, for the good of neighbor and the common civic good.

I watched sisters in their 90s walk slowly into the Vespers that welcomed the Vatican visitors to our congregation. These women have poured out their lives endlessly for the work of the gospel and aren’t done yet. They were among the women the Vatican was investigating and in whom I see the Lord.

In whom have you seen the Lord?

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Gospel Reflection for April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday

14 Apr

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb and found that Jesus was missing. She could not find him and was crying.

Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?Mary supposed the man to be the gardener and responded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus said, “Mary.”

Mary turned to Jesus and answered, “Rabbouni!”

 John 20.15-16
via flickr user Elvert Barnes

via flickr user Elvert Barnes


Mary Magdalene is the first of all of Jesus’ followers to have a personal experience of the risen Jesus. When Jesus speaks Mary’s name, she recognizes the gardener is her beloved teacher. Like the sheep who knows the shepherd’s voice, Mary hears her name and recognizes Jesus. She hears, turns, and believes.

When has Jesus called you by name?

Mary Magdalene—Apostle to the Apostles

9 Apr

By Claire Bischoff

Quick! Think of one thing that you know about Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene from kestrana (Creative Commons License)

Mary Magdalene from kestrana (Creative Commons License)

Unfortunately, one of the things many people think that they know about Mary Magdalene is that she was a prostitute. As it turns out, this is a case of mistaken identity that goes back to the early church, when Mary of Magdala was confused with the sinful and unnamed woman from Luke 7 who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears and then wipes them with her hair, kisses them, and anoints them with oil. The identification of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was an idea that went viral, as medieval artists and writers often portrayed her this way, weeping and asking forgiveness for her sins.

Interestingly, it was not until 1969 that the Vatican cleared up this misunderstanding, making a plain distinction between Mary Magdalene and the sinful woman from Luke 7. But the association still is perpetuated in popular culture, through movies like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar. As many of us have likely experienced in our own lives, it can be hard to shake others’ misperceptions of who we are.

What is perhaps most regrettable about this long-standing case of mistaken identity is that many Christians never get to know Mary Magdalene as what she truly is: an excellent model of faith.

We know from Luke 8 that Jesus exorcised demons from Mary Magdalene. Having been cured by Jesus, Mary Magdalene becomes one of his followers, along with some other women and the twelve apostles. We also know that Mary and these other women also “provided for them out of their resources,” that is, helped to finance Jesus’ ministry with their own money. Having had a personal and healing encounter with Jesus, Mary changes her life course, putting her earthly treasure where her heart is: with Jesus.

At the end of Jesus’ life, when the twelve apostles have abandoned Jesus, Mary is still there. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John all place Mary at the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion. In his greatest moment of isolation and suffering, Mary does not abandon him. In fact, even after his death, Mary continues to follow Jesus. John 20:1 tell us that Mary went to the tomb where Jesus has been buried “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” It was she who first saw that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb.

Afraid that someone had stolen Jesus’ body, Mary runs to get the other apostles. Simon Peter and one other disciple run with her back to the tomb and observe the wrapping lying on the ground where Jesus’ body should have been. Astounded and not sure what to make of the situation, the disciples leave. But Mary stays, weeping. We can gather by her behavior—staying at the foot of the cross, going to visit Jesus’ tomb in the dark hours of the morning, weeping for Jesus—that Mary loved Jesus and was devoted to his mission.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Jesus makes his first post-resurrection appearance to Mary. As she is crying, two angels ask her why she is weeping. She tells them that someone has taken her Lord and she does not know where to find him. She then turns around and sees someone she mistakes for a gardener, who repeats the question of the angels, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Thinking this gardener may know something, Mary asks him where he has laid Jesus’ body.

It is at this point that Jesus reveals himself to Mary, simply saying her name out loud. Hearing her name, Mary recognizes Jesus for who he really is and says to him, “Rabbouni,” which means teacher. Because of what Jesus says next, we can gather that Mary embraced Jesus at seeing him again, for he tells 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 then does Jesus’ bidding, going to the disciples to announce to them that she has seen the Lord.

In the end, Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles, a name given to her by the early church. As the one to whom Jesus first appears post-resurrection, she is the first person charged to go spread the good news that Jesus is risen. Further, Jesus entrusts Mary with an important message. Theologian Teresa Okure explains that the expression Jesus uses—”my Father and your Father, my God and your God”—establishes a new relationship between God, Jesus, and his followers. As she writes, “[They] and Jesus now share the same parent or ground of being in God. They are in truth brothers and sisters of Jesus in God in much the same way as children relate who share the same mother and father.”* In other words, Mary is commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the Easter message that all followers of Jesus are children of God and brothers and sisters to one another.

What does the story of Mary Magdalene teach you about having faith in and following Jesus?

What does the Easter message that we are all children of God and brothers and sisters to each other mean to you? What does it mean about how we can approach God? What does it mean about how we are called to treat other human beings?

*Teresa Okure, “The Significance Today of Jesus’ Commission to Mary Magdalene,” International Review of Mission, vol. LXXXI, no. 322.

Gospel Reflection for March 31, Easter Sunday

26 Mar

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and Jesus appeared to her.
 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

John 20:18

Mary Magdalene hears a man she supposed to be the gardener speak her name.  Like the sheep who know the shepherd’s voice in John 10, she recognizes Jesus’ voice.  In John 20, the evangelist’s resurrection chapter, people come to faith in Jesus in multiple ways.  The beloved disciple sees and believes.  Mary Magdalene hears and believes.

Jesus commissions Mary Magdalene to tell his disciples he is risen.  She is the first witness of the resurrection and the one sent to tell the others—the apostle to the apostles.

What do you hear in Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus that affirms your faith?

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