A blessed memorial of Mary Magdalene, one of the central figures in the Gospels, mentioned far more than most of the Apostles, but about whom – like many of the same Apostles – we know very little beyond what the Gospels tell us. She is mentioned in all four, the three synoptics, with an even more prominent role in Saint John. By the Middle Ages, she had been identified with the ‘sinful woman’ in the seventh chapter of Luke, as well as with the Mary, who is the sister of Martha and Lazarus, of Bethany. Although never mentioned as a ‘reformed prostitute’, Luke does say that ‘seven devils’ had been cast out of her, a mysterious phrase. Hence, her patronage for those who have reformed from sinful ways, which really includes all of us, for each of us must undergo a daily conversion – metanoia, a ‘turning of the mind and heart’ – to overcome the tendency to sin within ourselves which, if left unchecked, can only lead nowhere good.
As Pius XII warned in 1946, the worst sin of the twentieth century is the loss of the sense of sin, and what applies to eras applies even more specifically to individuals: We must maintain a hearty ‘sense of sin’, to know its insidious and subtle effects, the small temptations to which we succumb – often with what we may consider the best of excuses – little lies, impurity, covetousness, pride, selfishness…
But we may add to the good Pope’s words, that we have also lost the sense of the love of God, and what that love really means, to will and hold onto the true good, found in Christ, and only in Him, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Mary Magdalene, once converted, was one of Christ’s most devoted disciples, the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ as she was called, and to her, perhaps just after His own mother, He showed Himself glorified and resurrected from the dead.
Would that we may the grace to see our own see – to see ourselves as others, not least God, sees us – and have that same sin’ rooted out and purified as the Magdalene of old. For only so, like her, will we see Christ as He truly is, when He too calls us by name.
As Saint Gregory the Great puts it in today’s reflection from the Office:
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.