Saint Mary Magdalene: She Who Loved Much

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A soul in love neither fears nor avoids taking risks. In the Garden of Olives, the Apostles fled in terror. Mary Magdalene, on the contrary, went in search of her Beloved, and He came to meet her.

Newsdesk (22/07/2021 13:45, Gaudium Press) “Sinner!” By this and other unflattering titles was Mary Magdalene referred to in Jerusalem and the surrounding area: a rich woman of noble lineage, notable beauty, and yet leading a dissolute life. While still very young, she had allowed herself to be dragged down by vanity, the first step on the slippery slope that leads to the swamps of impurity.

In this deplorable situation, she entered the Gospels bearing the label of ‘public sinner’ (cf. Lk 7:37).

At a certain moment, however, she crossed paths with Jesus. The Evangelists do not say where, when, or how this first encounter took place, but at some later point she was the protagonist of one of the best-known episodes of the New Testament:

“[…] carrying an alabaster vase full of valuable perfume in her hand, she burst into the dining room of the Pharisee Simon, went straight to the place where the Master was standing, bathed his feet with abundant tears, wiped them with her hair, covered them with kisses and, finally, anointed them with the exquisite perfume” (cf. Lk 7:36-50).

She washed away with tears the filth of her sin

An exciting scene, no doubt! Not, however, for Simon and the other guests: they watched with astonishment, but without the courage to express the reproach that bubbled up in their hearts. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and which woman is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Lk 7:39), said the Pharisee.

Blinded by bad faith and envy, he did not perceive the undeniable reality: the woman before him was not the sinner, but the Saint! Yes, for such a demonstration of repentance and love could only come from a soul already firmly set on the path to holiness.

“She washed away with her tears the filth of her sins” and, “by the fire of divine love, burned away carnal love in her heart”, commented Pope Saint Gregory the Great.

From there, Mary Magdalene emerged with a new title that has resonated in history for two thousand years: that of the repentant sinner. And she is venerated throughout the world as a model and patroness of all those who wish to free themselves from the most terrible slavery of all, the slavery of sin.

On that day, however, Jesus Himself gave her a more glorious title: ‘She who loved much’ (cf. Lk 7:47), and she shines in Heaven and on earth as the Saint of passionate love and daring trust.

A soul in love does not measure risks

Passionate love? But … is not passion always an evil?

No. Passion is good or bad, noble or vile, according to the object of love. According to Saint Peter Julian Eymard, only passionate love is true love: “The Eucharist is the noblest aspiration of our heart: let us, therefore, love it passionately. […] Only he who feels within himself the passion of love, loves”.

The Evangelist highlights an important detail: “After this,” – that is, after the moving episode recounted above – “Jesus went about the towns and villages proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and some women”, among them, “Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Lk 8:1-2).

Here, then, is the one formerly possessed by the demons now among the Holy Women, as a disciple of Jesus! Without doubt, the Master did not need to say to her, “Follow me”, because her heart longed for nothing more than to accompany Him everywhere, to hear His words, to see Him and be seen by Him, to show Him in long or fleeting exchanges of glances her boundless love.

The soul in love neither fears nor avoids taking risks. In the Garden of Olives, the Apostles fled in terror. Mary Magdalene, on the contrary, went in search of her Beloved and accompanied Him on the ascent to Calvary. She remained at the foot of the Cross until the moment of His consummation.

She also took part in the funeral cortege and wished not to leave, not even when the disciples departed after rolling the great stone over the entrance to the tomb: “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained there, sitting in front of the tomb” (Mt 27:61).

In this regard, St. Catherine of Siena exclaims: “Oh, Magdalene, you were mad with love! You no longer possessed your heart, for it was buried with your sweet Master!”

And Jesus came to meet her

In the end, however heavy the weight upon her, she too had to withdraw. What were the dispositions of her soul that night and the following day can well be imagined from the Gospel accounts.

She bought spices to anoint that adored Body once more and, before the sun had even risen, she left for the sepulcher with two of the other Holy Women.

For those who love, there is nothing impossible: here they were on their way, not even knowing how they would manage to roll aside the heavy stone at the entrance. Imagine their astonishment at finding the tomb standing open and empty!

Magdalene ran to tell the Apostles. Peter and John hurried there, verified the fact, and “returned to their homes” (Jn 20:10).

She, however, remained at the sepulchre, in tears. Note the strength of her passion: Jesus had died and she did not yet believe in the Resurrection; she was, therefore, looking for a corpse.

Weeping, she turned her eyes back to the tomb. Why look again when she already knew it was empty? Because those who truly love never tire of searching.

“Weeping, she sought the One she had not found; inflamed by the fire of her love, she burned with the desire to find Him Whom she thought had been kidnapped.”

Did she find Him, after all? Much better than that, He came to meet her:

“Woman, why weepest thou? Whom are you seeking?”, the Master asked, in such a way that she did not recognize His voice.

Thinking it was the gardener, she pleaded in distress:

“Lord, if thou hast taken Him away, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will go and fetch Him.”

He answered her with a single word, in a tone that revealed His infinite love: “Mary!” One word was enough for her to know Him and respond: “Rabboni!”

There He was, alive, He whom she had sought among the dead! She could see Him again, and her heart found rest at last.

Light of divine grace

What she saw in that exchange of glances with her Lord, only the Angels and Saints in Heaven know. But one can imagine that she saw in Jesus’ eyes, much more splendid this time, the same light that had shone in her first meeting with Him – lux Christi, the light of divine grace, whose power of attraction she could not resist.

This is the light that enkindles in the soul of every authentic Saint the fire of passionate love for Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Text extracted, with minor adaptations, from Heralds of the Gospel Magazine n.199, July 2018.

The post, Saint Mary Magdalene: She Who Loved Much, appeared first on Gaudium Press.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

Read More: Spirituality, Passionate Soul of Saint Mary Magdalene, Who was Mary Magdalene?, Saint Mary Magdalene, Gaudium Press

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