A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalen is the first person to become aware of Jesus’ resurrection.

Why Mary Magdalen?  Over the years she has had the reputation of being a sinful woman.  How she received that reputation, I don’t know, but the only thing that the Gospels say about her background is that “she had seven devils cast out.”  (Luke 8:2) This phrase could mean many things.

Anyway, she had the reputation of being a sinner.  Yet, she was a close follower of Jesus, one of his female friends (Luke 8:1-3).  She was such a good friend that she was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25). With him until the end of his life.

However, Mary was also present at the beginning of Jesus’ resurrected life.  Based on that experience she went and told the other disciples what she had seen and heard.

In spite of her reputation, Mary had become a close friend of Jesus, being present at the end of his earthly life as well as the beginning of his resurrected life.  This “sandwich” style of presence makes Mary a special type of person.

What do these reflections tell us? I suspect that they tell us many things, but I would like to share with you a couple of ideas that make particularly good sense.  Both have to do with Mary Magdalen and sinfulness.

First, Mary Magdalen, considered a sinful woman, was such a good friend of Jesus that she was present for the beginning and end of his key moments.  This “sinfulness” was definitely not an obstacle to a friendship with Jesus.  If we are honest with ourselves, we also are truly sinners.  As with Mary Magdalen so with us. Our state of sinfulness is not an obstacle to a close relationship with Jesus, but we must have that state of willingness to be his friend. Sorrowfulness is what counts.

Second, since Mary Magdalen was present for Jesus’ “death and resurrection” we can take notice that all of us sinners experience a “death and resurrection.”  Every time that we have problems or difficulties which seem insoluble, that is the “passion/death.”  But our belief in the friendship with Jesus gives us hope for a “resurrection.”

This is to say, that all of us often experience problems/difficulties which seem like a “passion and death.”  And yet, because of our friendship with Jesus there is always the hope for a “resurrection.”

Mary Magdalen, considered a sinful woman, was visibly present for Jesus’ “passion, death, and resurrection,” because she was a faithful friend.  So, we sinners also experience difficult problems, which seem like “a passion/death,” but because of our willing friendship with Jesus we have high hope for a “resurrection,” that is, a workable solution.

As the nursery rhyme goes, “Mary, Mary quite contrary…” the contrary may well have to do here with the change from sinfulness to friendship.  The change in us from sinfulness to friendship may be a model from Mary Magdalen given to us.  This is reason enough to shout ALLELUIA.

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