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St Mary Magdalene, The Apostle to the Apostles

24 June 2020

The feast day of St Mary Magdalene is celebrated on 22 July. The following is a prayer rite to be used for the feast day.

Readings: 1 Song of Songs 3:1-4B; 2 Cor 5:14-17  Psalm: 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Gospel: John 20:1-2, 11-18 

Hymns: Amazing Grace by John Newton; Preparation of Gifts: In my heart, I know my Saviour lives (Song of Mary Magdalene); Words and Music by Manoling Francisco SJ; Communion: Christ, Be Our Light, by Bernadette Farrell; Recessional: How Great Thou Art, Words and Music by Stuart K Hine


Shamed, misidentified, labelled with other’s faults; how many of us have experienced misunderstanding similar to this? It’s difficult to rise above the petty problems that come with human relationships, especially when so many of us want to be liked, approved of, and our contributions appreciated. It’s a daily practice to know and reinforce who we are inside no matter the opinions of others.

Painted as an adulteress facing death, a repentant prostitute, and the contemplative sister sitting at the foot of the Messiah, St Mary Magdalene may be the most misunderstood woman in the Bible.

We think we know a lot about Mary Magdalene, but do we? What would Mary Magdalene have to say about the stories told about her? Or would she care, because someone more important – the most important – knows her and calls her by name.

What cannot be disputed is that in the Gospel of John, Mary is the first disciple to see the risen Jesus. At the tomb overwhelmed with grief, Mary does not realise that it’s Jesus speaking with her until he calls her by name.

No matter what the Gospels left out about Mary Magdalene or what her past really was, she was the disciple Christ first appeared to after his resurrection. It was she he asked to announce to the others that he had risen. Her unwavering faith at Calvary and her desire to tend to Jesus’ body at the tomb are glimpses of her character. It’s why in 2016 Pope Francis elevated St Mary Magdalene’s day of memorial to be celebrated as a feast, calling her the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’.

During his General Audience in May of 2017, Pope Francis uses the lens of Jesus’ meeting Mary Magdalene at the tomb to express God’s relationship with his creation. Pope Francis said, ‘Each person is a love story that God writes on this earth. He calls each of us by our name: he knows us by name; he looks at us; he waits for us; he forgives us; he is patient with us.’

The words of Pope Francis remind us that God is each of our true love, best friend and real employer. What does it matter what others think or say of us because each of us is a love story that God has written? When times get tough and it seems there is no one to turn to, we should listen for our Lord’s voice calling our name, reminding of us who we are and to whom we belong.

The many misidentified stories of Mary Magdalene brings to mind the last lines from the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward
will be great in heaven.’ (Matt 5: 11-12)

Prayers of petition:

God our father, may we not be discouraged when people misunderstand us but be strengthened by your voice calling our name. Lord hear us.

We pray for those who are misunderstood in our society and for those who resist understanding. Lord hear us.

May we follow the example of St Mary Magdalene and repent of our sins and follow your ways. Lord hear us.

Holy Spirit, we ask you to send your spirit to those, who like Mary Magdalene, are in need of healing. Lord hear us.

Lord Jesus, like Mary Magdalene may we have the courage to announce the Good News. Lord, hear us.

Image: Mary Magdalene –


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