Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene
(Exodus 20:1-17; John 20:1-2.11-18)
In one of the most touching scenes in world literature Hector, the Trojan prince, visits his family before going off to battle. His wife and son implore him to stay with them and not risk death in the vain war. But Hector’s sense of duty compels him forward. In a sense the gospel today showing Mary Magdalene’s clinging to Jesus parallels the ancient Greek drama.
Jesus’ words to Mary, “Stop holding on to me,” indicate both Mary’s affection for the Lord and also her incomplete understanding of the resurrection of Jesus. He has overcome death, but he does not return to his disciples as a permanent, enfleshed companion. Rather he will ascend to his Father so that the Holy Spirit may be sent to institute his followers into God’s family. When Mary recognizes this truth, she dutifully carries out Jesus’ command to proclaim his resurrection.
The Holy Spirit has raised us also in the divine company. Like Mary we love the Lord and long to see him enfleshed. But for now, again like Mary, we are content to proclaim his resurrection by living lives of virtue.