Lectio Divina: Saint Mary Magdalene
1) Opening prayer
be merciful to Your people.
Fill us with Your gifts
and make us always eager to serve You
in faith, hope and love.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 20:1-2,11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he told her.
• The Gospel today presents the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today. The death of Jesus, her great friend, makes her lose the sense of life, but she does not cease to look for Him. She goes to the tomb to encounter anew the One whom death had stolen. There are moments in life in which everything crumbles down. It seems that everything has come to an end. Death, disasters, pain, disillusionments, betrayals! There are so many things that can make us lose the earth under our feet and produce in us a profound crisis, but something different can also take place. Unexpectedly, the encounter with a friend can give us back the sense of life and make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat. In the way in which the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene is described we distinguish the stages followed, from the painful seeking for the dead friend to the encounter of the risen Lord. These are also the stages that we all follow, along our life, seeking God and in living out the Gospel. It is the process of death and of resurrection.
• John 20:1: Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. There was a profound love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few people who had the courage to remain with Jesus until the hour of His death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest of the Sabbath, she returned to the tomb, to be in the place where she had met the Beloved for the last time, but to her great surprise, the tomb was empty!
• John 20:11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but seeks. As she wept, 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. The angels asked, “Why are you weeping?” Her response: “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put Him!” Mary Magdalene looks for the Jesus she had known, the same one with whom she had lived for three years.
• John 20:14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without recognizing Him; the disciples on the way to Emmaus saw Jesus, but they did not recognize Him (Lk 24:15-16). The same thing happens to Mary Magdalene. She sees Jesus, but does not recognize Him. She thinks that He is the gardener. Jesus also asks, as the angels had done, “Why are you weeping?” And He adds, “Whom are you looking for?” Response: “If you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will go and remove Him!” She is still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. The image of the past prevents her from recognizing the living Jesus, who is standing in front of her.
• John 20:16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name “Mary!” (Miriam). This is the sign of recognition: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers “Master!” (Rabbouni). Jesus turns. The first impression is that death has been only a painful accident on the way, but that now everything has turned back as it was in the beginning. Mary embraces Jesus intensely. He was the same Jesus who had died on the cross, the same one whom she had known and loved. Here takes place what Jesus had said in the parable of the Good Shepherd: “He calls His by name and they know His voice”. “I know My sheep and My sheep know Me!” (Jn 10:2,4,14).
• John 20:17: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being with her is not the same. Jesus tells her, “Do not cling to Me because I have not yet ascended to the Father!” Jesus is going to be together with the Father. Mary Magdalene should not cling to Him, but rather, she has to assume her mission: “But go and find My brothers and tell them: I am ascending to My Father and your Father”. He calls the disciples “My brothers”. Ascending to the Father Jesus opens the way for us so that we can be close to God. “I want them to be with Me where I am” (Jn 17:24; 14:3).
• John 20:18: The dignity and the mission of Magdalene and of the women. Mary Magdalene is called the disciple of Jesus (Lk 8:1-2); witness of His crucifixion (Mk 15:40-41; Mt 27:55-56; Jn 19:25), of His burial (Mk 15:47; Lk 23:55; Mt 27:61), and of His resurrection (Mk 16:1-8; Mt 28:1-10; Jn 20:1,11-18). Now she receives the order, she is ordered to go to the Twelve and to announce to them that Jesus is alive. Without this Good News of the Resurrection, the seven lamps of the Sacraments would extinguish (Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17-18).
4) Personal questions
• Have you ever had an experience that has produced in you an impression of loss and of death? What has given you new life and the hope and joy of living?
• Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus in a certain way and found Him again in another way. How does this take place in our life today?
5) Concluding Prayer
God, You are my God, I pine for You;
My heart thirsts for You,
My body longs for You,
As a land parched, dreary and waterless. (Ps 63:1)