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Homily for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen - Fr. Dominic David Maichrowicz, OP
This weekend we are anticipating the feast of our patroness St. Mary Magdalen so that we can celebrate it together as a community – so that we can venerate that first-century woman who continues to intercede for us here in this parish and continues to offer us a model of the discipleship to which all of us are called. And so on behalf of our pastor, Fr. Michael Augustine, the Dominicans here in residence and all of the staff – I want to wish all of you a most blessed feast day!
I’m not sure our parish has really recognized just how blessed we are to have such a patron – a woman who is in the tradition the greatest model of conversion from sin – one of the greatest models of a deep and authentic love for Jesus Christ – and truly the first preacher of that good news, the first to announce,“I have seen the Lord!” and proclaim the resurrection.
Throughout the history of the Church, the Magdalen has shown herself to be a great patroness of penance and conversion. Whether or not all of the Gospel stories usually connected to her are indeed about her, we know from St. Luke that she was one from whom seven demons had gone out. She was one who was acquainted with evil, seven demons suggesting every form of vice – and generally that kind of evil comes into our life because we invite it. Tradition holds that her conversion is the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears; whatever her story was, it certainly must have been that profound.
Our parish needs to be a parish of conversion; a parish that seeks to root out the sin in our lives. Mary Magdalen is a reminder that no matter how far I think I’ve fallen, no matter how oppressed I feel under the weight of guilt, no matter how much I may even hate myself and despair of ever really being good – I can not only be forgiven, not only be freed from my burdens, but I can actually become a saint. And if you’re not sure that’s the case for you then it’s time to come to confession. Come next Saturday or make an appointment with one of us . . . and see what can happen. To follow our patroness we have to become a parish of conversion and indeed a parish of reconciliation.
The second thing that the Magdalen has modeled for us is that authentic love of our Lord. This is particularly important in an age that seems to confuse love with the sharing of venereal pleasure. Mary who has been forgiven much, pours out her entire self in love for the Lord who has saved her. She is counted among the women who leave their lives behind to follow Jesus in his ministry and help provide for it. The morning of the resurrection, we find she is among the first to rise and go to the tomb without even a thought of how she will remove the stone to anoint the body. Even when the others come to see the empty tomb and leave not understanding, she remains and continues to weep for Him whom her heart loves. In her love that hopes all things she even seems to think that if she can find Jesus’ body, she will be able to carry it to safety herself. Her love is so great, her conversion and transformation of life is so great, that Jesus chooses to reveal himself to her before any other resurrection appearance recorded in scripture.
Our love for Jesus Christ in this parish needs to be modeled after Mary Magdalen as well. It should be reflected in our desire to be with Jesus and to help provide for his ministry. The beginning and the end of our day needs to include a little time with him – just as those with families need to spend that time together in their love for each other, so we all need to spend a bit of our morning and evening with God as well. We might even, if it can be worked in our schedules, attend daily Mass here at 8 in the morning or 5:30 in the evening – or at a different parish with a more convenient time. As an extension of the Mass, we can come and just spend time with Jesus present in the tabernacle – especially in a time and place that has scheduled adoration. These things are difficult in our busy schedules, even sometimes difficult as a priest – but as St. Paul said, the love of Christ impels us, to no longer live for ourselves but for him who for our sake died and was raised – for him whom our hearts love.
Not only do we have to seek to spend time with him, we also have to love Christ in the way he asked us to love him – by serving the least of his people – the poor, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned; the ignorant, the lonely, the doubtful, and the troubled. Our parish needs to serve those with whom Jesus identified himself in organized ways – but also as individuals day-in and day-out, and through our prayers and contributions.
Finally, we remember Mary Magdalen’s title of Apostle to the Apostles – the one who was sent to preach the good news to those who would be sent to preach it to the world. It is for this reason that St. Dominic chose the Magdalen as the co-patroness of the Order of Preachers, why it is so fitting that this parish dedicated to her is staffed by the Dominican Order. She is the first to announce the resurrection – and we need to go out and announce the resurrection as well.
It begins with our own families and friends. Parents in particular, you have a call, you have a vocation to announce the good news of our salvation to your children. When we know we have been forgiven, when we no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus, that love of Christ impels us to bring others to him as well. Always in prudence – always beginning with our friends and family where they are and giving them whatever time they need – but always ready to speak that truth with our patroness –I have seen the Lord. Following that very first evangelization spoken by the Magdalen, this parish needs to become a center for the new evangelization here in Berkeley and throughout the Bay.
He whom my heart loves gives himself to us on this altar. He comes here, not in the bodily form of a gardener, but in the substantial reality of the sacrament, to announce to us again that he has conquered our sins, that he is our risen savior and that we have all been sent out to proclaim that truth; to witness to this reality for the world. Through the intercession of our great patroness may we together seek our forgiveness and deepen our conversion; may we follow him in love and in that same love serve our neighbors; and may we become parish that proclaims in our homes and in our lives, I have seen the Lord.