Her Love was Great: Saint Mary Magdalene
Thursday July 22, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Reading (Song of Songs 3:1-4b) Gospel (St. John 20:1-2, 11-18)
As we consider today this extraordinary woman, Saint Mary Magdalene, we see the love that she had. Of course, it should not surprise us because Our Lord Himself even said of her, Her sins are great, but they are forgiven because her love is great. We see, then, the example of her love: She is willing to put herself into jeopardy by going to the tomb of the Lord that was to be guarded; she was willing to die with Christ if she needed to; she was right there at the foot of the Cross when He died; she was willing to put herself out to be able to find Him. The apostles, having come with her to look into the tomb, when they did not find the body of Jesus, turned around and went away – she remained at the tomb. And it was precisely because of that tenacity and that fidelity that she was rewarded with the first appearance of the Risen Lord that we know of.
When we consider this lady and what it is that she was about (a prostitute who was possessed by seven demons, we are told in Scripture), it gives all of us great hope because all of us are sinners and sometimes we get caught up in the notion that our sins are too big, that our sins cannot be forgiven. “There is no way that God could love me because look at what I’ve done to Him.” All the devil’s lies go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round in our minds. But when we look at somebody like a Saint Mary Magdalene, I do not suppose there is anyone here who can quite hold a candle to her, as far as sinning goes. And I do not think there is anybody here who has been possessed, and she was possessed with seven demons, so I think we can all look at her and realize that if she was loved by Christ so much so can we be – and, in fact, so we are.
But it is not in this matter a question of how much Our Lord loves us; the question is how much we love Him because that is what we see in Saint Mary Magdalene, one who was willing to do whatever she needed to do to find the Lord, one who recognized that in her soul she was a bride of Christ. So is each one of us. As we heard from the Song of Songs, in the middle of the night the bride would be seeking her bridegroom, and not finding him, she continued to seek and she continued and she continued until she finally found him whom her soul loved. That is exactly what we have to do as well.
There are times in prayer where it seems that the Lord has abandoned us, where He seems like He is a million miles away and there is nothing there, but it is only by continually going back to prayer and seeking Him that we will find Him. And in the midst of the difficulties of our lives where we think that God has condemned us to some kind of problem because of all the troubles in our lives, once again, it is only by continuing to seek Him, knowing that He is there…we just have to find Him. He allows Himself to be hidden precisely to test us and ask the simple question: How much do you love Me? Do you love Me enough that you are really going to seek Me with your whole heart and soul and strength? Or when you do not find Me at the first glance are you going to walk away? Mary Magdalene’s love for Our Lord was such that she remained faithful; she remained at the tomb even when His body was not there. When we go into our hearts and things are dry and dark that does not mean the Lord has abandoned us; it simply means that He is testing us, He is purifying us, He is asking us the same question: How much do you love Me?
How much are you willing to seek Him Whom your soul loves? That is what we have to be about, looking for the Lord, seeking union with Him, and being willing to let everything else go for the surpassing knowledge of the love of God. That is ultimately all that matters. And when we see the love that Saint Mary Magdalene had for Our Lord, there is not a single one of us who has any reason to think that Our Lord cannot love us, there is no one who can think that Our Lord cannot forgive us, and there is no one here who would have an excuse for not loving God. We see that her sins were great, and they were forgiven because her love was great. Our sins too are great – maybe they do not quite compare with hers, maybe they do – but the reality is that our sins are offenses against God; but if our love is equal to our sin, then we can know that God in His mercy will forgive us. If our hearts are truly seeking the Lord, then, like Saint Mary Magdalene, we are going to be enormously blessed by union with Him Whom our souls love.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.