Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Innocence Lost?

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If you cannot be a Catherine or a Cecilia, do not be ashamed to be a Mary Magdalene…

– St. Bonaventure

Broken.  Stained.  Beyond hope.  Outcasts and misfits.  If you read the Gospels carefully, you soon realize the people drawn to Jesus were the sort of people “polite society” of that day would avoid.  Mary Magdalene, according to Western tradition, was no exception.  A headstrong woman, she followed her pride and ambition, focused on worldly vanities and pleasures, and gave herself to men to obtain them.  It is believed she was the prostitute who anointed Jesus feet, bathed them with her tears and dried them with her hair, while he was dining at Simon’s house.  While Simon and his guests of “good and moral” people looked on in disgust, Jesus looked at her with compassion and told her that her many sins were forgiven, for she had loved much.

Fast-forward to Jesus’ passion and death.  It was her love for Jesus that drove her to his tomb during the early morning hours after the Sabbath, only to find the tomb empty.

On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves—I sought him but I did not find him.  I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves.  I sought him but I did not find him.

It was her love that made her found worthy to be the first to see the Lord and proclaim His resurrection to His disciples.

The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves?  I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.

Song of Songs 3:1-4b

She became the Apostle to the Apostles.

What can we learn from Mary Magdalene?  St. Catherine of Siena draws out three virtues from her life.  First, we must have “hatred and contempt for the sins [we’ve] committed against [our] Creator.”  There is not one of us who is innocent before God – we’ve all offended Him by seeking pleasures in created things, seeking power and riches instead of trusting in His provision, or setting ourselves up as masters of our own domain due to our pride.

Second, considering God’s gratuitous love for us, we need to have love for Him and for others; “the gentle Jesus snatched you from the devil’s hands and brought you grace.”  God “becomes the Divine Guest of our souls, dwelling there day and night, desirous of receiving the unceasing homage of your intimate friendship and of your love!” (Paul de Jaegher, S.J., One With Jesus)  The more we acknowledge our sins, turn away from them and turn to God, who comes to dwell in us at baptism, the greater our capacity to love.  As Jesus told Simon, “those who are forgiven little, love little while those who are forgiven much, love much.”

Third, once we have perfect hatred for sin and perfect love, we will have patience to endure any and all trials and sufferings; in fact, we will endure them joyfully and we realize nothing can harm us when we have “this shield of hatred, love and true patience.”  Tradition tells us that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were forced to leave Judea and were put in a boat that eventually landed in what we now know as France.  Mary Magdalene retreated to a cave in the hills, living a life of prayer and solitude, until her death.  In all times and places, she sought only the One she loved and desired only to do His will.  Mary Magdalene exemplified the life of a sinner who had a future in Christ.  She turned from her sin, sought only to love and serve Jesus, and endured the doubts and sufferings inflicted upon her with joy and peace.

God shows no partiality and He calls who He wills.  He does not consider great sinners as shut out from a life of great conversion and even greater love – no sin is too big for God’s mercy; after all, every saint had a past and every sinner has a future.  Turn to Jesus, trust in Him, and see what wonders He will do for you.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

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