Tuesday April 17, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday of Holy Week
Reading (Acts 2:36-41) Gospel (St. John 20:11-18)
When we hear this account in Saint Johnís Gospel about Our Lordís appearance to Saint Mary Magdalene, we can only imagine the joy she would have had. Consider the context: Here was a woman who had been possessed by seven demons and lived a tragic life, becoming a prostitute and doing all kinds of terrible things. When Our Lord freed her from all of this, she was absolutely in love with Him. Not in a negative way, but truly in love with the One who freed her from the bonds of the devil. So, imagine the sadness this woman would have had. We can see the power of that love; she was willing to be there, at the foot of the Cross. All of His disciples, except Saint John, fled; and there she was with Our Lady. We see the tenacity of this lady and the sadness, the loneliness, the tragedy in the heart that she would have felt when Our Lord died.
Now, she comes to anoint His body because she did not understand what the Resurrection was all about. She figured she would come and anoint the body of the Lord. Then, she finds that the body is not there. How empty, how downhearted she must have been at that moment to see that the Lord was not present; not understanding what the Resurrection was about and assuming that someone took the body of Our Lord. She finally recognized Our Lord when He turned to her and said her name "Mary." Her heart, from being so down, must have just leapt with utter joy at being able to see the Lord and talk with Him.
Imagine the excitement she would have had in her voice when she ran to the apostles to explain to them what had happened. She had seen the Lord! Of course, we know they did not believe her because they did not believe in the resurrection from the dead; but she knew what had happened and her heart must have been absolutely radiant, pounding, without a doubt. Her heart was radiant with joy at the truth that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead. The tomb was empty, except for two angels who were worshiping the spot where the Son of God, in His humanness, had lain in death; even that she did not understand. Now she knew that the One, Whom her heart loved more than anyone in the world, was risen from the dead. The Good News was given to her to bring this message to the apostles; to tell them, even though they would not believe. It did not matter to her that they would not believe. I am sure it bothered her, but it did not matter. That was not going to shake her faith. Just as their infidelity at the Cross did not shake her fidelity, she was going to be there with the Lord, no matter what.
That is why the Lord would appear to her. We do not hear about the appearances to Our Lady. All the saints tell us that Our Lord appeared to His mother first. But Mary Magdalene, after Our Blessed Lady, is the first to whom the Lord appeared because she is the one who remained faithful. She was the one who was willing to risk her life to be at the foot of the Cross. She was the one who would be with Jesus to the end. Therefore, right at the beginning of this new life, Jesus comes to her and gives her the privilege of being the very first to bring the news of the Resurrection to those who did not yet believe.
This Resurrection is what inspires Saint Peter and gives him the grace, being one who not only did not believe but was terrified to be known as a follower of Jesus, to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands of people and proclaim his faith and the name of Jesus Christ; to tell them "God has made both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you have crucified. Therefore, you must be baptized into Jesus Christ."
We share that life. We share in the Resurrection already. The joy of Saint Mary Magdalen should be ours, but even in a more incredible way because we share the life. She saw it, but until she was baptized she did not share it. We do; we are baptized into the Lord. Saint Peter says, at the end of the first reading, that when we are baptized into the name of Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is in this that our sins will be forgiven. It is in this, Saint Peter tells us, that we will be saved. But our lives must change. It is not enough just to say, "Well, I am baptized now. Therefore, it is enough." We are baptized into Jesus Christ; therefore, we must live the life of Jesus Christ. We must live a life of faith, of hope, and of love. We must be filled with the same kind of love that filled Saint Mary Magdaleneís heart: We will be with Our Lord, regardless; we will not be ashamed of Jesus; we are willing to stand with Him at the moment of His death; we will be proclaiming the Gospel because of our faith in the Resurrection. That is what Saint Mary Magdalene did. That is what the Lord is asking of us.
So, we can ask ourselves today, "Are we ashamed of Jesus Christ?" Now, on one level, obviously you would not be here right now if you were. But when you go out into the world, are you? Are you willing to be known as a follower of Jesus by the way you live, by the way you act, by the way you speak? Are we willing to stand up with the Lord? Are we willing to be counted? Are we willing to be ridiculed for the name of Jesus Christ? We do not want to be like Nicodemus, a disciple in secret, who came to Him at night because he was afraid. We need to be like Saint Mary Magdalene because Jesus Christ has freed us. He has freed us from sin; he has freed us from death; he has freed us from Satanís grasp. We, now, should be on fire with love for Jesus. We should be willing, like Saint Mary Magdalene when she saw what He did for her - she was willing to stand with Him, no matter what it might cost. She was rewarded to be the first, after Our Lady, to see the Resurrected Christ; and to be the first one to preach the Gospel message that Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.