Liberating Mary of Magdala
22 July 2022, Friday of the 16th Week in the Ordinary Time
Feast of St Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles
Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18
We are insatiable beings. We can never be contented. Even if we have already much, much food and drink, much achievements, much possession, we still want more. What is that empty space in our hearts meant for? Today’s feast of St Mary of Magdala reminds us that our basic human desires can be an opening to God. What will happen if our desires are one with God? Let us look into the Gospel reading of today.
First, notice the setting. There’s darkness. Mary goes to the tomb while it was still dark. What made her walk through the road that’s surrounded by darkness? It must be Mary of Magdala’s desire for the Lord. The death of Jesus must have troubled her. Even if her faith was challenged and shaken, her desire to see the dead body of Jesus kindled that dark and dangerous journey which she took.
What do we desire when our faith is put to test? What do we long for when our relationship in our families and communities seems to be not smooth sailing? What do we long for when a loved one is suffering due to serious illness or when we experience tremendous loss? Notice that our desires, if they are good, true and beautiful, can sustain our journey even if we are in darkness.
Second, notice the encounter. Mary was looking for the dead body of Jesus but Jesus already found her. Mary was not able to recognize the Lord for she was weeping outside the tomb. Being outside the tomb is not just a locating where Mary of Magdala is. It points to the dilemma of faith that she went through. But when she heard the voice of the Man calling her as “Mary”, she recognized Jesus and called Him “Lord”. Even if Mary is struggling with her faith, Jesus did not force her to enter the empty tomb. The Risen Jesus met Mary where she was.
Real love is not forcing through but it is a gentle presence that can calm a trouble soul. It’s difficult to see God when we’re in crisis. But God meets us where we are. We have the tendency to ask God solve our problems. But God wants us to mature. Suffering is not immediately removed, not to punish us, but to make us realize that we can come out victorious only if we allow God to suffer with us, in us and for us.
Finally, notice the change. Mary desired to hold on to the dead body but Jesus has a greater and better desire for Mary. By telling Mary of Magdala, “Noli me tangere”, Jesus does not manifest indifference to Mary for her faith in Him is not full. By clinging to Jesus’ body, Mary wanted to go back to that usual type of relationship that Jesus had with her and with the disciples prior to his Passion, Death and Resurrection. But the risen Jesus called her to enter into a new level of relationship. When the Risen Jesus said to her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’”, the Lord called her and the rest to enter into a new level of relationship: from being His disciples to becoming His brothers and sisters with God as their Father; from being a company to becoming a family.
Sometimes, we can be too functional and mechanical in dealing with one another but the Lord sends us to be apostles who build relationships and strengthen our families and communities. If we are functional, we can hardly be motivated to do our tasks. It is a danger is to treat people as machines and use them for profit. But the Lord calls us renew our institutions by breathing family spirit in which understanding, patience and charity are the energies that move us towards lasting and meaningful gains. By these, we become like Mary of Magdala, a disciple, a lover and an apostle.
What will happen if our desires are one with God? Mary’s journey of faith in the risen Lord did not start well. But Jesus never left her. In darkness, the Lord found her. Even in her immaturity, struggles and unbelief, Jesus took Mary as she was. But gradually, such imperfect faith was transformed when God’s grace blended with Mary’s courage to be the apostle to the apostles. The proof that she met the Lord is the reality that Mary’s faith journeyed through from darkness, then to partial until to full light. Amen.
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