Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Soul Is Thirsting For You, O Lord, My God!

Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene
Reading I
Song of Songs 3:1-4b
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves --
I sought him but I did not find him.

I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
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Psalm 63
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet
shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips, my mouth shall praise you.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings
I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you,
your right hand upholds me.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
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John 20:1-2, 11-18
On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb
early in the morning, while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved,
and told them,
"They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don't know where they put him."

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her,
"Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them,
"They have taken my Lord,
and I don't know where they laid him."
When she had said this,
she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her,
"Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener
and said to him,
"Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
"Rabbouni," which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
"Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
'I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene went
and announced to the disciples,
"I have seen the Lord,"
and then reported what he told her.
Keeping faith – fidelity – being faithful to love given and received: this theme I see in today’s liturgical celebration of Mary Magdalene. In the first reading Jeremiah gives God’s complaint that Israel has given and received the Lord’s love, but has turned away – unfaithful. The Psalm is a song of praise. And then the Gospel tells a story that summons our praise – and thanksgiving.

On the first day of the week, our Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of the priest-prophet-king she loved and found it empty. She told Simon Peter and others, but she remained, faithfully, at the site and saw the angels and then saw Jesus himself. She knew him when he called her name; he promised he would be with her forever once he ascended to the Father, and he told her to announce the Good News of the Resurrection.

Mary Magdalene is one of the great saints of the Church, known all over the world, and for a long time for the wrong reason. From Dr. Susan Calef of Creighton’s Theology department I’ve learned that Church tradition conflated a number of women in New Testament narratives into the figure of Mary Magdalene, Penitent. Before she was penitent, of course, she had to sin, so the good point of this identification was the teaching that the Great Sinner became the Great Saint. Thus, all the rest of us, ordinary sinners, are called to holiness too. That’s nice to know!

But as Dr. Calef and other scholars have demonstrated at length, Mary Magdalene herself is actually not portrayed as a sinner in any Gospel, although Jesus “had cast out seven demons” from her. She is named first among several women at the Crucifixion who “had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.” Although she’s alone in John’s telling of the Easter Morning appearance of the Risen Christ, in other Gospels she’s with another woman or women.

Anyway, she’s there – faithful.

As a Great Saint, Mary Magdalene is a great role model for us today. First, as Dr. Calef and other scholars have shown, she was an independent woman of some means who followed Jesus and his disciples and “had provided for him” (Matthew 27: 55). Thus she is a model for faithful Christians who are called to support the work of Christ in the world today. We can’t all go out to announce the Good News in faraway lands – or put computers in classrooms in Uganda and Kenya, or medical supplies in clinics in Haiti and the Dominican Republic – but we can contribute from our prosperity to provide for those who do.

Second, Mary Magdalene is named in each telling of how women remained faithful to Jesus even during his Crucifixion – while others, with understandable fear for themselves, ran away. Today I pray to be faithful to Christ Crucified, and to His Church, the Body of Christ, in trouble as well as in triumph.

And third, Mary Magdalene is faithfully at the empty tomb, weeping for her Lord, when, seeing a “gardener,” she hears Jesus call her name. This reminds me of a Hopkins sonnet, “As kingfishers catch fire…” Two of its last lines are “For Christ plays in ten thousand places. . . / To the Father through the features of men’s faces.” Today, I want to pay attention to ordinary people in the background of my daily life, and see how Christ might be present to me in those human faces.

Mary Haynes Kuhlman
Theology Department
Daily Reflection
Creighton University's Online Ministries

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