The Pashion of Mary of Magdala
Stephanie Molloy, Special to The Review, July 15, 2021

Sometime ago I wrote about Mary of Magdala for a course I was taking, and it’s very interesting to read something that you put your heart and soul and mind into so many years before. This also took me to a little village in Spain called Azpeitia where there is a chapel dedicated to Mary of Magdala and where Ignatius of Loyola would meet with people and teach.  Being at that chapel on July 22nd is an experience I’ll never forget.

Rereading that paper spoke to me of passion – the passion that I felt getting to know Mary of Magdala.  But what I want to highlight is her passion.

In a significant Gospel account about her she’s gone to the tomb, is weeping, disconsolate. Not only has she suffered a horrendous loss with his death, but now Jesus’ body is missing. It must have been gut-wrenching. And then to confuse the issue she sees what maybe seemed like a mirage, two angels. Then the encounter.

Jesus asks Mary two questions:  “Why are you weeping?” and “Who are you looking for?”  Just as we’ve been challenged to go to the depths of our belief during Holy Week in our liturgical cycle, living through the passion, death, and resurrection, Mary is also about to be challenged in a different way.

Jesus approaches Mary with care, not as a stranger, but almost like a teacher asking questions of that one particular, very special student. The teacher is coaxing the faith response from the disciple. She is challenged to put her feelings into words and so not only realize, but be definite and clear about what she believes.

We know that Jesus was seen but not recognised many times after the Resurrection. People didn’t recognise him through what they saw with their eyes, but in what he did –  like bless and break the bread, offer a massive catch of fish, or what he said, such as a name . . . “Mary.”  Naming is such a personal thing. When someone you love says your name, it is one of the most intimate acknowledgements of who you are. It’s this intimacy that allows Mary to know in the depth of her being that it’s Jesus – Rabouni, Teacher. It’s all she needs to know, to know that he is alive. It's what gives her the mission to go to the others, that allows her to acknowledge her mission -- to be the apostle to the apostles and say “I have seen the Teacher.”

In the Acts of the Apostles we “see” a group shot of the earliest gathered community. Those fourty days that Jesus appeared from time to time to them must have been surreal as well. Did these early followers (before they were even called Christians) try to get their heads around how Jesus could be among them after the crucifixion? Again, the excitement, the passion, but still the mystery of what was happening.
Maybe this time last year we were all feeling a little surreal, as well, about what was going on with this coronavirus. When people began meeting on Zoom to celebrate Eucharist, how did it work?  How could Jesus be present in our communities if we weren’t actually physically gathered?  Now – it’s still the community – just in a way we wouldn’t have recognized before the experience.

So how does this powerful encounter in the garden help us in recognising Jesus in our world today? With the saying of her name, Mary knows that it’s truly Jesus. She understands and refers to him as teacher. Jesus is our Saviour and teacher who uses the same intimacy with each of us to elicit the best from us. So we, too, should be able to speak out and spread the word as Mary did, “I’ve seen the Teacher.” What does the Risen Jesus actually look like? We’d have to know in order to say we’ve seen him. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus well, but at first she saw only the gardener – then she saw Jesus. We, too, are to see Jesus in the gardener, but also in the cab driver, in the homeless, in refugees, as well as in our children, and in all people regardless of their circumstances, or as a prayer for wisdom says: “At the village wells, country pumps, steel cells, ghetto dumps, where so much of life lies buried." When we see someone and acknowledge them as cherished, then we’ve seen Jesus.

As I returned back to my own studies of Mary Magdalene and upon re-reading what I had written, I realized that getting to know her actually did affect how I lived, and gave me renewed passion.

There is so very much more about Mary than one can learn if one delves  into Scripture – canonical and apocryphal – and current scholarship. In the spirit of Mary Magdalene and according to the First Letter of John, "What we have seen and heard, we proclaim now to you so that you too may have communion with us. For our communion is with our Loving God, and with God’s Beloved, Jesus the Christ."


Home ©2020 RCWP Canada