On Wednesday 22 July, the Church will celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene is one of the most important people in the Gospels. Mary was from Magdala, a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. She was one of Jesus’ first followers and Mary Magdalene was with Christ as he died on the Cross and was among those who laid his body in the tomb. It was to Mary that Christ first chose to appear on the day of his resurrection, and it was Mary that the Lord asked to go out and spread the Good News of the resurrection to the disciples. We don’t know what happened to Mary, or where she is buried. There is a legend that she ended her life in a cave in southern France, and that her relics are preserved in the basilica of St Maximin in Provence. We first meet Mary when Jesus visited the house of an important man in Capernaum (a town near Magdala). Mary is known to be ‘a great sinner’, a woman of the streets despised by powerful men. When Mary learned that Jesus was to dine at the man’s house, she came to the house with a jar of an expensive lotion called nard. Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and anointed them with the nard. The important man is shocked that Jesus would let such a woman wash his feet. Jesus explains that Mary had much to repent for but the faith and love she showed by washing his feet with her tears had brought her forgiveness and salvation. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love….Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7.47-50).
We can all think of things that we are sorry for, things we wished we hadn’t done. Sometimes we regret not doing something that we knew was the right thing to do, but we didn’t have the courage to do it or we let life get in the way. For most of us, they are private things. Mary’s sins, however, were public and well known. However, God’s response is always to forgive and to love us when we say sorry to him. The readings at Mass tell us:
“For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all….and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.’
(Wisdom, 12: 16-19)“
You are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
“… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God”
Mary’s story is one of the most powerful stories of forgiveness and salvation in the Gospels. Mary’s faith and Jesus’ forgiveness of her sins transforms Mary’s life, as it can transform all our lives.
In our church
Mary Magdalene is one of the saints depicted in the stained glass windows in our church. Mary is with other female saints on the right hand side of the church as you look at the altar (the ‘south transept’). Can you find her?
Things to do at home
Reading and thinking
Read some of the passages in the Gospels that feature Mary, including:
Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 28:1-10.
Making and doing
Make a poster using the hopeful text from Luke below.
A prayer for the feast of S Mary Magdalene:
God of life and love, whose risen Son called Mary Magdalene by name and sent her to tell of his resurrection to his apostles: in your mercy, help us, who have been united with him in this eucharist, to proclaim the good news that he is alive and reigns, now and forever.