We interrupt the continuous reading of the Gospel of St. Matthew to recall that first Easter Sunday when Mary found the empty tomb. In the room where I teach a Bible Study class every Friday at St. Peter's in the Loop of Chicago, there is an icon of Mary Magdalene. She is pictured holding an egg, the symbol of the new life we tcelebrate in the Resurrection. She is regarded as the first to hear the news and is called "the equal of the apostles" in the Eastern rite churches. Today we celebrate her privilege and hold her in our collective memory.
One of my Scripture professors likened Mary to the community itself in speaking of her experience on Easter. She is both a figure of mourning as well as a figure of hope. She represents the confusion that must have been present in the community, a confusion that keeps her (and them) from recognizing Jesus when he stands before them. She is both Jewish and Christian. She addresses Jesus as "Rabbouni," expressing in that name the fact that she has still not come to recognize Jesus as God made flesh. We know that the early Christian community struggled for at least the first century as it reflected on who this Jesus was. That struggle and the reflection it involved comes to a climax in the Gospel of St. John. It is he who uses Mary as the representative to mirror the confusion that reigned as well as the faith which developed as a result.
Much has been written about this figure. She is probably the most misunderstood and even maligned person in the history of the Church's hagiography. There are those who still regard her as the woman caught in adultery in St. John's Gospel or the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. The Gospel simply tells us that she is one of the many who benefitted from Jesus' healing ministry. She stands as a figure of faith who reminds us of what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator