Fr. Francesco Pesce and Monica Romano
As expressly wished by Pope Francis, the Congregation for Divine Worship published a decree on 3rd June 2016, by which the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene, which was obligatory memory, has been elevated to the level of a liturgical feast day. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation, explained that the Pope took this decision during the Jubilee of Mercy “to emphasize the importance of this woman, who showed great love for Christ and was very dear to Christ”.
At the end of Jesus’s life, Mary of Magdala (or Magdalene) was with Mary and Saint John on Calvary, standing underneath the Cross (Jn 19.25). She never fled in fear as the disciples did, she never denied him like Peter did, but was present at all times, from the day of her conversion until she was under the Cross when Jesus died. She was the first person, that Easter morning, to whom the Lord appeared and called her by name.
In the Roman Missal, the 22nd July, which from this year on will be called the Feast Day of Saint Mary Magdalene, contains a reading from the Song of Songs: «I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves. I sought him but I did not find him» (SS 3,2). This is an extraordinary text which can be applied naturally to the Sequela Christi which Mary Magdalene lived all her life. Indeed, she sought the meaning of her life, she sought Jesus with determination, she didn’t leave any stone unturned, she did not seek him only within herself but also around Her; she did not seek him only in the holy places but also in profane places; she did not seek him only on the road towards perfection but also and perhaps above all in her failures. In this regard, it is worth recalling that her traditional identification as a converted prostitute has no biblical grounds.
And the Lord let himself be found by Mary Magdalene, he let himself be found for ever as the Risen Christ, calling her by name, recognizing the testimony of this woman and establishing a loving bond with her which is stronger even than death.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for” (Jn. 20,15). “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ ” (Jn. 20,16.) We can learn some meaningful lessons from this unique and emblematic encounter which took place on Easter morning. The Church owes much to women, credible and faithful witnesses of the Risen Christ.. Starting, obviously, with Mary, Mother of Jesus. The Lord decided to appear in the world as a Child, born of a woman. When he rose again to testify to the world that love is stronger than death, he appeared first to women. In the two most important mysteries of the Christian faith and revelation – incarnation and resurrection – the Lord chose women and entrusted himself to them.. And between these two moments which changed the history of the world forever, during his brief life Jesus lived and valued his friendship with several women who were his faithful disciples. Like many women today who represent a great wealth for the Church: mothers, grandmothers, nuns and teachers, the many volunteers and charity workers helping the sick, the poor and the needy …. This “taking care of others” in so many contexts is in the very nature of women and readily found in the life of the Church. We must enhance to our utmost this presence, this charisma and this gift, just as the Lord did.
“Stop holding on to me, 10 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.” (Jn. 20, 17).We cannot allow obsolete machismo and clericalism, without any biblical grounds, to affect the life and mission of the Church. Let us give more room to the many women who, in their daily life and without any fuss, work in the many ecclesial realities – pastoral work, charity, missions and educational institutions.