Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2021)

Thursday, July 22, 2021
St Mary Magdalene (Feast)

1st Reading (Option 1): Song of Songs (3: 1-4

I have found him whom my heart loves.

The bride says this:
On my bed, at night, I sought him
whom my heart loves.
I sought but did not find him.
So I will rise and go through the City;
in the streets and the squares
I will seek him whom my heart loves.
I sought but did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me
on their rounds in the City:
'Have you seen him whom my heart loves?'
Scarcely had I passed them
than I found him whom my heart loves.

1st Reading (Option 2): 2 Corinthians 5: 14-17

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

Responsorial: Psalm 62: 2-6, 8-9

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water. (R./)

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise. (R./)

So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy. (R./)

For you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast. (R./)

Gospel: John 20: 1-2, 11-18

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she said 'and we don't know where they have put him.'

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' 'They have taken my Lord away' she replied 'and I don't know where they have put him.' As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, 'Woman why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?' Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.' Jesus said, 'Mary!' She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbuni!' -- which means Master. Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

A woman of admirable faith and love

For many people, Mary Magdalene is the best known celebrity of the early church. But long before Dan Brown's sensationalist description in The Da Vinci Code she was a personality round whom myths and legends gathered: that she was descended from a noble family, that she married Jesus and had his child, that she was a high priestess in a Roman temple at Magdala, that after the resurrection she went to France, or to Ephesus with Mary the mother of Jesus. Not all of these can be true, and probably none of them is factual. So what do we know of the real Mary Magdalene?

Her Gospel namer "Mary who is named Magdalene," means that she came from Magdala, a small town near Tiberias on the western shore of lake Galilee. We know nothing about her family background, but if she was among the women who travelled with Jesus and supported him financially (Lk 8:2), she must have had some disposable income. According to both Mark and Luke, seven demons were driven out of this woman by Jesus. She was present at his crucifixion and burial and of course, as in today's Gospel, his resurrection. Several key items from the popular myth are missing from the summary above. Wasn't Mary Magdalene the woman caught in adultery, and didn't she pour ointment over Jesus's feet and wipe it up with her hair? But the name of the woman who was caught in adultery is unknown, and the Mary who poured ontiment over Jesus's feet was the sister of Martha and Lazarus ( John 12:23 ).

The Mary Magdalene most people think they know is a combination of several women mentioned in the Gospels. So, how would we feel if Mary Magdalene were to walk into our company today? Would we accept that we know nothing about her and try to find out more? Or would we cling to all those colourful impressions about her, thinking they might be true, for they say there's no smoke without fire? Would our judgement be based on the real person, or on the Magdalene of gossip and rumour. Too many people tend to make judgements first and find out the facts later. People who want to follow Christ need to be aware of the temptation to pre-judge others. We all carry our own prejudices based on who we are, what we have experienced and where we are in life. As one who suffered in her mental health (being rid by Jesus of her "seven demons") Mary Magdalene probably had to endure negative responses from others. Who would want to go near a madwoman? Parents would warn their children to avoid her in case they too got possessed by a demon, like her. Yet Jesus reached out to her in kindness, reached out to the real Mary, the woman behind the facade people saw because of the tales that had been told about her. Mary responded by devoting the rest of her life to following Jesus and supporting his ministry, no matter what it might cost, financially or emotionally.

In popular devotion Mary Magdalene is patroness of penitents, reformed prostitutes, perfumers, hairdressers, and apothecaries. In paintings she is depicted in a posture of penance or an attitude of reflection, at the Foot of the Cross or before a Crucifix, at the empty tomb, or meeting the risen Christ (often with the words "Noli me tangere" -- "Touch Me not" -- inscribed in the painting), or carried by angels after her death. She is often symbolized by her alabaster jar; a skull symbolizing penance and a mirror; long, unveiled hair (often red); tears and red robes.

An old misunderstanding

In the long tradition of the church, including its artistic tradition, Mary Magdalene has generally been portrayed as the repentant sinner. This is largely due to her being mistakenly identified with the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair. There is not evidence to suggest in the gospels that she was any more a sinner than the other disciples of Jesus. The gospel reading for her feast which we have just read portrays her as a woman whose devotion to Jesus brought her to the tomb early on that first Sunday morning. Her heartfelt devotion to Jesus also left her outside the tomb weeping tears of loss when she discovered the body of Jesus was not there. She sought the Lord but could not find him. However, the Lord came seeking her and found her when he called her by her name, "Mary." Like Mary Magdalene, we too seek the Lord, and, like her, we are also the object of the Lord's search. Indeed, the Lord's search for us is prior to our search for him. Even if we struggle to make our way to the Lord, like Mary, the Lord always makes his way to us and calls us by our name. He is the Good Shepherd who, having laid down his life for us, now calls us by name. In calling us to himself by name, the Lord also sends us out, as he sent out Mary Magdalene, to bring the good news of his Easter presence to those we meet. The Lord who calls us by name also asks us to be his messengers to others.