Intimate Authority, Transformed and Sent
Original entry date: June 14, 2013 in our Mid-Year Newsletter
On her Feast Day, I recall that St. Mary Magdalene is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the Apostle of Apostles. Why? The risen Christ revealed Himself to her first; out of all the disciples, God entrusted her with the witness of the resurrection.
How can this be? Mary had no authority in the eyes of men. Living on the fringe of a 'religious' culture, she is commonly understood to have traded her body for money. Moral poverty made her less than credible; she cast a shadow on the company she kept. Jesus drew her out of the shadows. He offered her a love deeper than shame and more powerful than the demons she housed. He made her new. In His intimate love for her, Mary became mighty. God entrusted her to bear witness of history's greatest event. She did not want the honor. In John 20, Mary implores Peter and John to bear witness of the empty tomb. Both men raced there but could not comprehend what had happened. They saw evidence of resurrection but still did not see; they walked away from the tomb, disoriented. Mary wept and lingered at the tomb, alone. That was her great gift, this evidence of intimacy with Jesus. For what else better defines intimate reliance upon another but weeping and lingering? Love alone provokes tears for another; love alone compels us to wait, to abide, to linger. These tender expressions of intimacy--tears and lingering--are the earmarks of her authority. She grieved for a long time. She wept and lingered at the empty tomb. The other disciples went home, confused, disoriented, and worn out. Grief grounded Mary, kept her near His memory. She was poured out, like when she first washed His feet, or when He cleansed her with a mighty deliverance, or when she gave all to support His good works, or when she watched Him die a slow, agonizing death. His life had become hers; His death too. She was His--where else would she go? She waited alone at the empty tomb, an empty vessel. No wonder He chose to appear to her first: 'Mary', the Risen Christ said to her gently, 'Go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to the Father.' She ran to the disciples, shouting: 'I have seen the Lord!' (Jn. 20: 17, 18) Intimate, holy love transformed a prostitute into the Apostle to the Apostles. Lingering before Jesus, with tears, conveys the intimacy that made her wholly trustworthy. She lived a life of surrender to her Source. In turn, Jesus forged a bond with her strong enough to bear the most important message on earth. As darkness deepens over earth, might the light of His transforming love shine brighter still? Might we take our places as part of the 'Magdalene' army, tender troops who live only to testify to the One who is true? Might we follow Mary's example of authoritative intimacy, as we proclaim: 'We have seen the Lord!' 'The more I have known You Jesus, the more I desire You.' St. Faustina