Catholic homily for the Feast of Mary Magdalene
Theme: The grace of repentance
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Thursday July 22 2021
Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
Jn 20:1-2, 11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala 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.”
But 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 of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.
Today we honor a very important saint of the Church, St. Mary Magdalene. Acknowledging her greatness and her vital role in the proclamation of the Gospel, Pope Francis elevated the liturgical celebration in her honor from Memorial to Feast, like that of the apostles.
Western Christian tradition has long held that the unnamed sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee mentioned by St. Luke (7:37-38) is Mary Magdalene. But this view has already been proven inaccurate by biblical scholars.
What is certain is that the Gospel describes Mary Magdalene as the woman “from whom seven demons had gone out”(Lk 8:2).It is not clear what these “seven demons” were. This may not necessarily mean evil possession but could indicate some kind of ailment that is certainly severe. Afterwards, she followed the Lord and was one among those women “who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,” and who accompanied the Twelve and “provided for them out of their resources” (Lk 8:2-3).
Certainly, in her personal encounter with Jesus, Mary Magdalene must have experienced some kind of radical conversion that led her to a profound commitment to follow and serve the Lord. However, the Gospel reading on this feast focuses, not on her sinfulness, but on her great love and exemplary fidelity to Jesus. It is her great love that made her truly faithful to the Lord until the end. She never abandoned Him even while He hanged on the cross. And she never gave up. She kept looking for Jesus even after His death. She went to the tomb, weeping bitterly. And because of her great love for Jesus, she was rewarded with the unique privilege being the first witness and herald of the resurrection of the Lord. That is why she is honored as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” for it was she who delivered this great news to the apostles.
The example of Mary Magdalene should inspire us towards a deeper commitment to the Lord and a greater love for Him. Nowadays, the spirit of materialism and egoism is gripping the world. We see a lot of systematic efforts to exclude and even erase God from society. Pope Pius XII took note of this many years ago. He said, “A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, ‘Where have they taken Him’?” During these times, we should all the more strive to search for Jesus and, like Mary Magdalene, triumphantly proclaim to all and sundry, “I have seen the Lord!”
Secondly, this feast reminds us of our unworthiness and sinfulness. This realization should make us always humble, but not disheartened. The truth is, our sins are not an obstacle but an opportunity for holiness. We may liken our sins to our own shadow. The presence of shadows indicate the presence of light. Our sins are the dark shadows of our life. But we should not despair because the mere fact that there are shadows, there must be the light of grace. As the Apostle Paul said, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20).
Hence, though sinners, we are called to be saints. And, in fact, God can make us saints. This is what the example of St. Mary Magdalene illustrates to us. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.”
If Jesus can turn water into wine, He can surely turn sinners into saints. What is only needed is openness to the grace of God, especially the grace of repentance and conversion as shown in the example of Mary Magdalene and many other great saints.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches