Homily July 22nd, 2023 

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene – July 22nd

          Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. There’s a lot we could say about her, but we can point out just two of her virtues: her great penance and contrition, and, second, her great love for Jesus.

          Regarding the first, it is commonly held that Mary Magdalene is the unnamed sinful woman in Luke 7 who anoints Jesus’ feet. In Life of Christ, Fulton Sheen recounts the scene: “Taking from her veil a vessel of precious perfume, she did not pour it out drop by drop, slowly, as if to indicate by the very slowness of giving the generosity of the giver. She broke the vessel and gave everything, for love knows no limits. She was not paying tribute to a sage; she was unburdening her heart of her sins. She had certainly seen and heard Him before, and she was certain that somehow He might give her new hope. There was love in her boldness, repentance in her tears, sacrifice and surrender of self in her ointment.”                     

By God’s grace, Magdalene is converted. She responds to that grace, and becomes a great saint. Indeed, Saint Gregory writes that “she converts the number of her faults into the same number of virtues, that as much of her might wholly serve God in her penitence, as had despised God in her sin,” and Saint John Chrysostom comments beautifully: “Thus the harlot became then more honorable than the virgins. For no sooner was she inflamed with penitence, than she burst forth in love for Christ. And these things indeed which have been spoken of were done outwardly, but those which her mind pondered within itself, were much more fervent. God alone beheld them.” Penitence becomes love. We can ask ourselves: how well do we take advantage of the sacrament of confession? Do we make frequently acts of contrition, and really attempt to work against our faults and failings?

Hence, Magdalene’s second virtue flows from this first one: as Jesus Himself says, “her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.” In today’s Gospel we can clearly see Mary’s great love for Jesus. Notice that Peter and John had come to the tomb, and just left. The Resurrected Jesus didn’t appear to them; nor did they see angels. Mary, on the other hand, is so consumed with love and so set on seeking out Christ that she thinks very little of speaking with the angels, since they aren’t the One whom she seeks. Even her short reply to Christ is full of love: Christ asks her, “Whom are you looking for?” and Mary replies, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” In her love and her sense of loss, she doesn’t even mention Jesus’ name. Likewise, she says “I will take him,” a very difficult, if not impossible, task; yet, her love is the sort that “banishes the hardest burdens, and think the heaviest burden light.”[1] We can ask ourselves: does our love for Christ keep us seeking Him, even in the midst of difficulties and challenges? Do we allow ourselves to be satisfied by mediocrity, or mere human pleasures and delights, instead of seeking only Christ, as Mary did? Are we willing to undertake great tasks for Christ because of our love for Him?

          Today, let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Cause of our Joy and Refuge of Sinners, and Saint Mary Magdalene, for the grace to imitate Mary Magdalene in her contrition and in her love for Jesus.


[1] The Finding of the Lost, by Venerable Fulton Sheen, 12 April 1936.

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