On June 10th of this year (2016), Pope Francis issued a decree elevating the June 22nd Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast Day in the Roman Calendar. Feast Days are reserved for Saints of particular significance, such as the Apostles. In doing this elevation Pope Francis stated that because St. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection and then told the Apostles, she was a “true and authentic evangelist”. He entitled his decree and the article about it “Apostle of the Apostles”. The Congregation of Divine Worship’s Secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, wrote that in celebrating “an evangelist who proclaims the central joyous message of Easter,” St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a call for all Christians to “reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy.” He further stated, “Pope Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to highlight the relevance of this woman who showed great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ.” Archbishop Roche added that St. Mary Magdalene, who “proclaimed life from the tomb, a place of death,” is a lesson for all Christians to trust in Christ who is “alive and risen.” “It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church.”
St. Mary Magdalene has often been seen as the unnamed sinner woman who anointed the feet of Jesus. However, most scripture scholars indicate that this is not indicated in scripture. She is the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.” There is no doubt that she has been slandered for many years. We do know that she was a follower of Jesus and loved by Jesus and even helped to support His ministry. She stood by the cross of Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her most glorious story is of her visiting the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark.
The Gospel tells us that she peaked in to the tomb and saw two angels there. She then sees Jesus but does not recognize Him until He speaks her name. Pope Francis said that her tears at Christ’s empty tomb are a reminder that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus”.
Even though St. Mary Magdalene has been slandered for many years, she would probably say that it didn’t matter. She saw herself as a sinner in need of God’s MERCY. So should we. As we celebrate Her feast, let us remember that we too are called to love Jesus with all that we are and to tell others about the God who died for us and rose again so we might have LIFE.