Reflection on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Feast of Mary Magdalene – July 22, 2021 – Fr. Rick Sherman

This feast of our Patroness in the Diocese of Salt Lake City comes at a very providential time of the year; a few days before Natural Family Planning Week.  It might seem odd that a single woman who is most renowned for her close friendship with a single man, Jesus, might be the most excellent patroness for NFP Week as well.

Mary Magdalene’s close relationship with Jesus could be called an intimate relationship.  Think of intimacy as complete openness and honesty.  The pure holiness of Jesus and the dramatic healing and repentance of Mary were the main ingredients of this relationship.  This dynamic exchange charged whatever ‘natural’ chemistry there may have already been between them.  Mary’s love for Jesus enabled her to follow Him closely through His public ministry and all the way to the foot of the cross.  Ultimately (in the gospel of John) she is the first to encounter Jesus after the resurrection and the first to tell the apostles that Jesus is indeed risen.  There is a most personal exchange between the two as Mary finally recognized the true identity of Jesus when He calls her by name.  She responds immediately.

This is one of the best models we have for demonstrating the true human capacity for intimate relationships, i.e., the holiness of Jesus and the complete honesty of Mary coupled with her willingness to follow Jesus faithfully.  This type of relationship is open to all of us.  The prescription is the same:  Honesty, repentance and healing on our part in total dependence on the holiness of Jesus.  We must spend time with Jesus as we do with any close friends.  It doesn’t always have to be chatty. As with most lovers often the most intimate times are those just shared in silence.

This type of relationship should be well in process before anyone even considers making the total self-gift to another in marriage.  This is the true sense of love which will offer the quick corrective when love starts to drift toward lusting or using.  (One of the more memorable lines from my seminary education is that, “Marriage preparation starts in second grade”). The sacrament of matrimony will infuse the grace into the couple’s relationship which will make their lifetime promises possible and they will be become genuinely generative in all the ways that the world needs.

This love relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is also the model for chaste celibacy which all others are called to.  Regardless of how one may ‘identify’ within the bewildering and mysterious spectrum of sexual attractions, we are all called to be completely honest with Jesus and others who are committed to following Jesus faithfully.  When the communities that all people need are based on this type of love they will be generative in the way the world needs and will provide the love, support and creative inspiration that all people need.  It’s called becoming One Body, One Spirit in Christ.

St. Mary Magdalene pray for us!