Jn 20:1-2, 11-18
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.”
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she bent down to look inside; she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”
As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Lord, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni” – which means, Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me; you see I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.”
So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
Perhaps no other woman in history has been more maligned and unjustly vilified than Mary Magdalene. (Incidentally, Magdalene means “from Magdalas,” a town situated on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee). For various reasons (v.g. there are six Marys mentioned in the New Testament), she was wrongly identified with the nameless, “sinful” woman, who anointed the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Thus Mary Magdalene was for centuries thought to have been a reformed prostitute. This error was first spread by Gregory the Great in the 16th century—a typical example of male chauvinism—and was finally corrected only by the Roman Calendar of 1969, where she is no longer called a “penitent.” Since then at least seven highly scholarly works by female exegetes have set the record straight once and for all.
Male chauvinism is slowly being eroded in the West (it is still rampant in many cultures and religions in the East) but remains an ugly blot on humankind. We should all examine our thinking and our behavior in this respect—women as well as men, for some women “introject” that prejudice and accept it unconsciously. Let us look at Jesus’ unconditional acceptance of women disciples. He made of Mary Magdalene, in the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “apostle to the apostle.”
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