JULY 22, 2004 - Homily
2Cor 5:14-17; John:20:1,2, 11-18

JESUS SAID, ‘MARY! SHE KNEW HIM THEN AND SAID TO HIM IN HEBREW, ‘RABBUNI!’. The first word spoken by the risen, glorified Lord Jesus was ‘Mary’, the name of a woman who loved him with her whole heart. She was one of the few who stood by him at the cross, along with another Mary, his own sinless mother. All four of the Evangelists inform us that Mary Magdalene was involved in appearances at the tomb which made of her the first to announce that Jesus lived again, having risen from the dead. John alone tells us that she learned this, not from an angel who appeared to her when she visited the tomb, but rather from the Lord Jesus in person. He made himself known in an appearance in which he addressed her by name. Her reply in Aramaic means literally, ‘my teacher’ and would seem to have been her customary way of addressing him. Significantly Mark, the earliest Gospel, is the only one of the evangelists to identify Mary as a woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons.

Mary Magdalene, then, for St. John, who was with her standing at the cross of Jesus, did not consider it appropriate to point out that she had been subject to demons earlier in her life; she had been cleansed by the Lord earlier in his ministry. Her love was both faithful and strong, overcoming fear and shame. She openly associated herself with her Savior when he was deserted by all but a few; she did not hesitate to stand by him while the majority and their leaders treated him with contempt and cruelty. John presents her as one who was faithful beyond all calculation of self-interest. Her constancy was the fruit of love. And it was her love that carried her to the place of burial that had become the place of new life.

For John the personal, loving relation Mary had with Jesus is what defined her. That she had been a sinner, subject to every kind of passion, was not worthy of mention. Now she was known by the Lord of life by her own name. In his mouth her name embodied all the hope and substance of endless life. She too came alive with a freshness of spirit that, in a moment, defined her whole existence in terms of a love that is life without end. She discovered, in his word to her that truly love is stronger than death.

And so Mary became the apostle of the resurrection. It was she whom the Lord chose to announce the Good News first of all, and to sow seeds of hope in the hearts of the apostles. Our monastic Fathers understood that if she was the first to identify the risen Lord and to put her faith in him, it was because love made of her a true contemplative. By love she was able to find the Lord when he was hidden to others And so she became the patroness of contemplatives. May her intercession and the grace of this Eucharist obtain for each of us a share in that love which was her strength and the source of her fidelity.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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