Reflection on the Daily Readings for 4/14/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Easter Tuesday of Octave. Acts 2:36-41. Psalm
33:4-5.18-19.20.22. John 20:11-18. Lectionary # 262:
In the last twenty-five years much attention has been given to Mary
Magdalene through a study of the apocryphal writings and through the media,
novels, and the movies. Paintings from the late Middle Ages have almost as
many works as those dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is
interpreted in so many ways that are intriguing and dramatic. The New
Testament scholars however give us the only touchstone of history that
refers to the Mary Magdalene in the inspired scriptures of the Gospels.
Though so much has been written about her from these scant references, she
is one of the heroines of art, fiction, and apocrypha. And let us not
forget the portrayal of her in movies about the Passion of Christ!
Unfortunately, one of the Western Fathers of the Church gave her the
interpretation of being a prostitute, but there is no evidence for this in
the New Testament. The "seven devils" do not refer to prostitution and the
unnamed woman who washes Jesus feet with her hair is not Mary Magdalene!
Biblical stories and biblical persons are often conflated into different
people who are not related to what the bible says about them. Trust the
scholars who tell us that she is the first to witness the Resurrection;
trust the evidence of the texts that she is not a prostitute nor was she
married to Jesus!
Today's narrative gives us a true glimpse into who Mary Magdalene is.
We learn from the appearance of Jesus to her that she was called to be
witness to his Resurrection and that she had the mission of reporting this
to the apostles. She fulfilled this role as we learn from the narratives
in the Gospels. She undoubtedly was a faithful person who together with
Mary the mother of Jesus and the other women stood beneath the Cross as
Jesus died. We can lay aside the interpretation of those who say this is
all symbolic in John's Gospel. Time after time in looking more deeply at
the text of John we come to realize he is more accurate on place names and
some of the inside information than the Synoptics. C.H.Dodd, one of the
finest exegetes of this Gospel wrote about the testimony of this Gospel in
his erudite book, "The Historical Tradition of the Fourth Gospel."
That of course is another theme. Let us accept the scholars when they
tell us that Mary is a witness and a follower of Jesus, that is, a
disciple. It is she who tells us in today's reading that "I have seen the
Lord." Jesus had called her "woman" twice in this scene, just as he had
used this title for Mary his mother and for the Samaritan woman. John
though he never gives us the name of Jesus' mother does name Mary of
Magdala. When Jesus calls her by her name she comes to realize it is the
Lord then she can carry the message to the others and tell them, "I have
seen the Lord!" Jesus shows her that the resurrected life calls for a
different faith relationship with him. He had separated himself in death
from all that was his personally on earth in that last scene at the foot of
the cross when he addressed his mother as Woman. He does the same to Mary
of Magdala when he says, "Do not cling to me." Her faith now is on the
total person of Jesus, God and man. He is therefore able to tell her, "I am
ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!" Jesus is
returning to the eternal life with the Father and the Spirit. The Prologue
of John had already announced this at the beginning of this Gospel. The
end of the Gospel reminds us twice of its purpose for having been
written:"Jesus performed many other signs as well--signs not recorded
here--in the presence of his disciples. But these have been recorded to
help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through
this faith, you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31). And at the end
of chapter twenty-one: "It is the same disciple who is witness to these
things; it is he who wrote them down and his testimony we know is true.
There are still many other things that Jesus did, yet if they were written
about in detail, I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to
hold the books to record them." (There are well over three thousand
scholarly works published on the Gospel of John). Amen.
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