Monday, March 2, 2015

St. Mary Magdalen, Companion for Lent

by Carlo Dolci
Lent is a time set aside to turn back to the Lord. If you are looking for a heavenly companion for your Lenten journey this year, St. Mary Magdalen is a great choice.  What we know about her life teaches us some good lessons.

St. Mary Magdalen was a woman out of whom Jesus drove seven devils (Mark 16:9).
Lent is the perfect time to make things right with God by frequent confession of our sins. And if we are honest with ourselves, we all have a few devils that the Sacrament of Penance will help knock out of us.  Once the devils were driven out, she joined a group of women who followed Our Lord, ministering to His needs (Luke 8: 2-3). She gave of what she had to Jesus Christ, a poor itinerant preacher, as he went about doing good.  During Lent almsgiving is the giving of money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, it is a witness to fraternal charity and a work of justice pleasing to God (CCC 2462).

Mary is well-known for sitting at the feet of Jesus while her sister Martha was busy in the kitchen. Prayer is another common practice during Lent.  Mary's example shows us that simply to be near Jesus and listen to Him is a prayer.  Different types of prayer appeal to different people.  Prayerful reading of Scripture, the Rosary, speaking to God in our own words - all these are good and helpful forms of prayer.  Of all prayers, the Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament hold preeminence.

Traditionally, St. Mary Magdalen is considered a repentant sinner.  Some believe that she was the woman who came in when Jesus was at dinner, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.  Our Lord told the other guests that much was forgiven her.  Then he told her not to sin anymore.  She went away and avoided sin - she fasted from sinning.  Fasting encompasses more than just limiting the amount of food we eat.  In addition to the minimal amount of fasting from food that the Church enjoins on us, we can fast from sin, we can fast from TV and internet, we can fast from gossip and slander.  

St. Mary Magdalen was forgiven because she loved much. Her great love gained her the strength to be counter-cultural, to be identified with the Sign of our Salvation. All four evangelists record her standing at the foot of the Cross (Mark 15: 20; Matthew 27:56; John 19: 25; Luke 23:49).  Three days later, because of her great love she received another gift as she came early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus after the Sabbath.  St, Mary Magdalen could not tear herself away from the opened and empty tomb, but remained nearby mourning.  She was the first to whom Jesus appeared and was made the bearer of the good news of His resurrection to the apostles (John 20:11ff).

Let us ask St. Mary Magdalen to teach us how to kneel in tears at His feet, to love much and to be heralds of His Resurrection to all we meet.

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