July 22, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene

Today's Readings

Mary Magdalene is called the “apostle to the Apostles”. An apostle is someone sent, particularly someone sent by Jesus to preach the Gospel. Mary is called the apostle to the Apostles because she was the one who told the Apostles that the tomb was empty. She was the first person in the entire world to preach the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This makes her a pretty important person.

There is good reason to suppose that Mary Magdalene is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Reading into the Gospels we find a kind of prodigal daughter. She left her family and became a prostitute. Not a low class prostitute by any means, perhaps even the mistress of a rich Roman official. She converted when Jesus came to her and cast out 7 demons who had possession of her. She went back to live with her sister and brother. We remember the story of Martha’s resentment toward her, not unlike the resentment of the elder brother to the prodigal son. We remember how she wept at the death of her brother Lazarus, she was even angry with Jesus. We see her pouring perfume on Jesus before his death; an entire jar of perfume worth over $10,000. She helps prepare the body of Jesus after he is taken down from the Cross, and she is the first person in the whole world to preach the Gospel.

Without a doubt, that story requires reading into the Gospel, between the lines, and there are many today who contradict this traditional reading. Some people say that Mary has been falsely accused, that there is no reason to suppose she was a prostitute or a mistress. A woman from a poor family might have had a $10,000 jar of perfume for any number of reasons. This story is not the only way to read the Scriptures, although it does all fit together nicely.

But those who say that Mary has been falsely accused of sexual immorality and try to liberate her from this unfair charge, it seems to me, are missing the point. It does not matter anymore. It does not matter anymore what Mary did before she met Jesus. What matters is what Mary did after she met Jesus. She was the first person in the whole world to preach the Gospel; she is the apostle to the Apostles, and today she is living happily in heaven. Wherever you were before does not matter. What matters is what you are going to do from now on. This is true for you, and it is true for me, and it is true for every prostitute and sinner you ever meet. Everyone is a potential Saint.