REFLECTIONS ON EASTER: THE SORROW AND JOY OF MARY MAGDELENE

Detail of Mary kissing the feet of the crucified Jesus, Italian, early 14th century

Detail of Mary kissing the feet of the crucified Jesus, Italian, early 14th century

Last week’s article described the women who came to the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning.

This article will focus on one of those women in particular, St. Mary Magdalene and how her sorrow, based upon love, led to joy from heaven.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke describe Mary Magdalene as a woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons, which could mean a literal possession, but more likely means that He freed her from a multitude of vices. Luke then describes her as a disciple and supporter of Jesus, who may also have been the woman who wept at the feet of Jesus and anointed Him with precious oil.

See Luke 7:36-8:3. She was there at the crucifixion and again at the tomb on Easter morning. John specifically describes her as then meeting the risen Christ, first mistaking Him for a gardener, but then recognizing Him when He called her by name. Overjoyed, she tried to cling to Jesus; but then, as He directed her, she brought the glorious news to the disciples. See John 10:11-18. In short, Jesus first led Mary Magdalene to sorrow at her slavery to evil, but then He gave her the joy of forgiveness. She loved Jesus and in sorrow mourned His loss, but then received the joy of the Resurrection. In these ways, Mary Magdalene is a model of the healing power of holy sorrow.

The modern world seeks to evade sorrow, for it seems to contradict our desire for pleasantness and ease. But sorrow at separation is the natural result of love. And so Jesus mourned over the death of John the Baptist; and He wept at Jerusalem’s rejection of Him and over her impending doom. To love is to risk sorrow, sorrow at divisions, at death, and above all at sin, which distances us from God. When one loves God and neighbor, loves the faith, the good and the true, one will mourn the absence or partial absence of them. But then Jesus calls us by name and we know that He is with us, giving even on earth a first promise of the joy of reunion, and promising that all separation will end with His final triumph.

And thus, as Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are they who weep and mourn, for they shall be consoled.” Matthew 5:4