Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 22 July 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Thank you for joining me for this reflection on the Feast of St Mary Magdalene. After the bitterly cold weather in Cape Town, the wind and the rains, it is wonderful to see the sun once again and to recognize that every storm eventually clears and the sun is visible again. May it be so with the Covid-19 crisis as well.
In the Gospel of today’s Mass St Matthew writes:
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the Feast of St Mary Magdalene may we imitate her example of love, loyalty and patience. May we also proclaim the Risen Christ to others so that they may experience the warmth of his love and forgiveness, and so may live their lives in hope and joy, always trusting in his care for all creatures. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.
What do we know of Mary Magdalene? She is mentioned by name 12 times in the Gospels – more than most of the apostles. We are told by Saints Luke and Mark that she had seven demons cast from her. We also know that she was one of the most loyal disciples of Jesus. She was present at his crucifixion and burial, and was the first to witness his resurrection. She was one of the women who, “out of their resources” (Luke 8:2-3) supported Jesus’ ministry, indicating that she was probably not poor or destitute. A tradition arose in the Church at a later time that she was a prostitute, but modern Scripture scholars say that there is no basis for that in Scripture.
She was a woman who searched and longed for truth – in today’s Gospel we hear that she searched for Jesus at the tomb. When she could not find him, she wept. But she did not give up. She remained there, waiting. She was brave even through her tears. Not only did she remain loyal to Jesus at the time of his crucifixion and did not desert him, even at the tomb she said to the person who she thought was the gardener “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away”. It was a brave thing to say. So from this short account we discern virtues in her that we are called to emulate – to search for Jesus, to thirst for him, to desire communion with him. We learn that as she remained at the empty tomb weeping, so we too need to be patient, to remain with Jesus patiently, especially in those times of hardship and emptiness. And we learn from her to be brave, never fearing to acknowledge that we belong to Jesus, we are his followers and we are not ashamed of it.
But we should not neglect the underlying source of these virtues, love. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Her heart was open and receptive to the love God has for all his people, and she responded to that love through her loyalty and fidelity, loving Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. We are called to the same, deep love relationship with the Lord. It is when we are open and willing to allow God to love us, that we can truly respond and love him in return. This very personal relationship is captured when Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus at the tomb. When he said to her “woman why are you weeping” she mistook him for the gardener. When he spoke her name “Mary” she recognized him instantly and she received her mission: go to my brethren and say to them that I am ascending, and so she goes to the apostles to tell them, no doubt her heart overflowing with joy. It is a passionate account of the mission that would later be given to the apostles as Jesus ascended to his Father, to go to all nations – it is the mission each and every one of us has, to tell people of the joy and hope of the resurrection. It is a mission we should all embrace with the same passion of Mary Magdalene.
In this time of upheaval, a time when many are “weeping” in one way or another, we cannot abandon our search for the Saviour – so often it is in “weeping” that we find him. We follow the example of this great saint, her loyalty, her courage, her patience and, above all, her love. And because of that love we tell people, by word and example, of the liberating message that Jesus offers to us, giving witness in our lives to the joy and hope of the resurrection.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you. R/ And with your spirit
Merciful and compassionate Father, you choose and call those who are sinners to turn back to you, repenting of their sins and failures, and accepting the love you offer them. We pray that you make wide our hearts, Lord, that we may be passionate in our love for you and for the mission that you have entrusted to us to spread the joy and hope of the Gospel. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, amen.
And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.