We know that Mary Magdalene was a devoted friend and follower of Jesus, but each of the gospels says something different about her role on resurrection morning. Matthew tells us that she and two other women saw an angel at the empty tomb and were instructed by him to go and tell the apostles what they had witnessed. On the way, they met Jesus and He told them to give the apostles the message that they should go to Galilee where they would see Him. Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus first and then went to tell the apostles who did not believe a word of her story! * Luke reports that she and the other two women saw the angel and then ran to tell the apostles who did not believe, except for Peter who did go to see the tomb. But Luke does not tell us that Mary Magdalene witnessed the risen Jesus at all. Finally, John’s gospel says that not only did Mary see the empty tomb, but that Peter and John believed her story, and after they left the tomb Jesus appeared to her, saying her name, assuring her that He was indeed risen.
Like Mary Magdalene, there have probably been times when we have found it difficult to live the gospel message when others, including friends, have challenged our way of life. Sometimes even good people, consciously or unconsciously, judge those whose actions they find to be a threat. This should not come as a surprise because Jesus was clear in stating that ‘the path is narrow’ and the way of the gospel is not easy. (Matt 7:13) Just as Jesus was condemned for doing good and being compassionate while trying to free us from sin, so too will anyone who tries to live the gospel message be an object of scorn. Jesus warned the apostles many times that they would be treated as He was and so this holds true for anyone who follows Him today as well.
Living as the gospels teach is bold and even counter-cultural at times. To live with mercy in the face of opposition is definitely bold. To be selfless when those around us are ‘preaching’ selfishness, to be merciful and forgiving when others claim retaliation and getting our due is the way, to be generous when we see others trying to get ahead by any means, to be peaceful when we are in the presence of hate or intolerance, to be faith-filled when things go wrong, to let go when it is easier to hold on, to be present to another rather than to pretend to have all the answers, and to love when it is easier to be indifferent: these are the ways of Jesus. And it is in imitating Him that we find freedom and eternal life. None of it is easy, but Jesus is with us every step of the way.
There will always be people who do not understand our choices or beliefs. There was not one saint who was approved of by everyone who encountered them. Even Jesus, the sinless One, true God and true man, the One who came to free us from the power of sin and death, the compassionate, merciful One, was hated, opposed, and put to death. How can anyone hate Love? But some did and some still do. Therefore we need to stay firm in our conviction to follow Jesus. We need to hold fast to our mission as witnesses of the gospel, bringing the message to those who have not heard, and to live in love even if our actions are behind the scenes, like Mary Magdalene after the resurrection. We can find our strength as she did: in prayer, the sacraments, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We can live without compromising our values or our faith by remembering that we choose to live the gospel because we love the Lord. It is about being present to others, living humbly, and relying on God to help us with that which can sometimes be difficult and confusing. Love never goes wrong if it is rooted in the gospels and in the discernment which comes through prayer. Let us be like St. Mary Magdalene, bold in our faith because of our love for Jesus.
©Michele L. Catanese
*Further, in Mark we hear that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not believed by the apostles either. It seems the apostles needed to see to believe. In Mark’s version, Thomas is not the only doubter! (John has the story of Thomas doubting, to be clear.)
The icon at the beginning of the post is St. Mary Magdalene Equal to the Apostles by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/all-categories/product/76-st-mary-magdalen-equal-to-the-apostles
The next painting is Noli me Tangere by Giotto. The original is in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. It can be found at http://www.haverford.edu/religion/faculty/amcguire/imagesmm/giottonolisc.jpg
The following three photos are all mine. The first was taken near Golden, Colorado on the grounds of the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini. The second photo was taken during a hike in Big Bend National Park in west Texas, and the third photo was taken in Cloudcroft, New Mexico while at the Solar Observatory there.