St Mary Magdalene - First witness to the Risen Christ; the Apostle to the Apostles, commissioned by the Risen Jesus to ‘Go to my brothers and sisters’; the woman who lovingly proclaims - ‘I have seen the Lord and this is what he says to us’. In June 2016 Pope Francis issued a decree elevating the ‘celebration’ of St Mary Magdalene, on 22 July, to the level of a feast day, just as the other apostles are similarly acknowledged. Who is Mary Magdalene for us, today, and what is the enduring message her life and witness gifts to us?
Scripture shows her as the primary witness to the most central events of Christian faith. Mary Magdalene, one of the group of faithful women who were with Jesus during his ministry and who stood by him at the foot of the cross, present during the agonising death of Jesus and the burial of Jesus. The searching Mary who came to the tomb on Easter morning utterly overwhelmed when Jesus’ body was not there and the tomb was empty. Grief-stricken Mary who didn’t at first recognise the Risen Jesus in the Easter morning encounter in the garden. Trusting and loving Mary whose life was transformed when Jesus spoke her name and she knew Him. With her eyes and heart now opened to His presence she was able to joyfully share with the apostles, and others, that ‘I have seen the Lord and this is what he says to us’. Mary Magdalene, a woman who showed great love for Jesus and was much loved by him and who was entrusted by the Risen Jesus to be the first witness of the resurrection. Her ministry was then, and is now, prophetic and profound. Do we allow our experience and encounter with Jesus to transform our lives? What is our response when Jesus calls us by name? What is our unique mission in life, as women or as men, as part of the Body of Christ?