Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

Today’s Gospel is John’s account of the empty tomb.  Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb so early in the morning that it is still dark.  When she finds it empty, she runs (not walks) to tell Simon Peter and John about it.  All of them return to the tomb.  While Peter and John return home after finding it empty, she remains.

Why is the role of Mary Magdalene so significant?   She was among the early followers of Jesus.  In Luke 8:2, there is a mention of her that includes the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her.  Not every person who benefitted from a miracle of Jesus followed him in the way that she did.

She was either the first, or among the first, to discover the empty tomb.  In all narratives, she is either alone or with one or more other women when the tomb is found empty.  The Apostles did not discover this.  It was up to Mary Magdalene (possibly with the other women) to inform the Apostles of this. 

She was the first (or first as part of a group) to see the Risen Lord.  He did not appear first to the Apostles.  Instead, he appeared first to her.  And he told her to tell the disciples of his Resurrection.  And so, she did.  It was Mary Magdalene who announced the empty tomb to Peter and John, and it was Mary Magdalene who first reported the Resurrection to the disciples.  For this reason, the decree from Pope Francis that elevated today to a feast is called “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Yes, it is from the Apostles that we have the governance of the Church through their successors, the bishops.  But that is only one aspect of the Church.  There is always a Marian aspect to the Church.  The Blessed Mother is so important to us.  There is also an evangelical and charismatic aspect that we see in Saint Paul.  There is a spiritual, and even contemplative, aspect from Saint John. 

Mary Magdalene was not an Apostle.  But her role of announcing the Resurrection, even to the Apostles, was so important.  What an honor that was for her too.  She had come to be a holy disciple who was also close to him.

So often, we look only to the commissioned leaders of the Church for our role models and examples for our lives.  We fail to appreciate the critical roles that so many others play.  Roles that might be more important than those of the official leaders. 

What role models can we find in the Church for ourselves?  How many are outside the official hierarchy of the Church?