Jul 22 – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene
There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.
She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ, washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.
Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife or mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.
Patron Saint Index
“I sought but did not find him”
It was St Augustine that famously said: “You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
One particular morning, in the pre-dawn hours, I recall waking to a feeling of deep longing. Longing to get back to those sacred spaces, people and times before ‘house arrest’ kicked in. It was an emptiness that was rather depressing. It has been a long sojourn in the ‘desert’ of deprivation. Deprivation from the sacraments, from community of close friends, communion with fellow parishioners and ministry members and even the physical and sacred spaces of church which have provided much peace and refuge. Unbelievably, I even miss being in the office. If, even in the best of times, the human soul already pines for God to fill a void that only He can do so – the circumstances of the ‘new normal’ have only made this longing exponentially deeper.
All the readings of today speak of the searching and longing in our souls. Searching and longing for something that seemed to have gone missing deep within ourselves – something we hold so true and dear within ourselves that is no longer there, which. no matter how hard we try, remains elusive. It is a pining for time, space and people that seem lost and no longer attainable. Forgotten. And like the bride in the first reading or Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, it was a sense of desperation and frenzy in looking for that which is no longer there.
The first is human longing. The longing of the coming of the Messiah of the prophets in the Old Testament and of the Second Coming in our present day and age. Longing of the Jewish people for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction by the Romans. Mary’s longing for God’s promise of the resurrection of her Son when all was darkest that Friday at Calvary. Longing of the Hebrew people for the promised land, each and every day of those 40 long years of exile in the desert. Oh, how the disciples must have longed for the Holy Spirit to deliver them from the bondage of their shame, cowardice, betrayal, despair and terror.
Deep within us, we long to let go of our past hurts and mistakes, the regrets for words and actions done to those we love the dearest. We long to be set free of our bondages and our addictions which have stolen our joy and our freedom. We long to not have to face our responsibilities in life with so much burden and terror. And we long from the evil and oppression set upon us by the indifference, selfishness and injustices of those who have long forgotten how to behave as decent human beings.
Then there is God’s longing. Yes – God’s longing. Since Adam and Eve, God had longed for the return of His children to obedience and fidelity. A father’s furtive glances over the horizon day after day, as he awaits the return of His prodigal child. For the world to finally know and to acknowledge the fullness of redemption from the sacrifice of His only Son. For the restoration of His holy Catholic Church founded by His Son, torn apart by endless heresies, divisions, the worldly spirit of secularism and relativism. From division caused by the deception of false prophets that use the name of His Son for their personal earthly prosperity and vain-glory. For His children to stop killing the planet, His creations and each other. For His kingdom to be finally established on earth. For His children to finally stop living as orphans and to realize how much they are loved and cherished as children of Almighty God.
And so, it seems, that not one of that which God longs for from His children, has yet to be fulfilled for Him. And for God too, “(He) sought us, whom (His) heart loves, but (He) does not find us”. Why?
Because, it seems, we are not quite yet ready, nor willing, to be found.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father, help us. The journey has been long and difficult. We feel ourselves slipping away a little more each day, when we are separated from you and our Mother Church. The pining and the longing grow deeper and deeper. We grow weaker.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for all that you send to lift us in our moments of darkness and helplessness. Thank you for never stopping to reach out to us for the times we seem to be no longer able to reach out to you. And most of all, thank you for preparing that very special place in your heart where our souls will one day find true rest and our pining for you will finally be satisfied.