Feast of St. Mary Magdalene


Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Scripture Readings: Song of Songs 3:1-4b;  Jn :1-2, 11-18

When writing letters, I have fallen into a pattern of concluding them with some limp and lame “hope that you are well” or “hope everything is going o.k.”  It is a well-intentioned wish, but not really very effective or costing much effort on my part.  My “hope” is just the way I would like things to go. I hope the sun will come out and that it will cool off.  If it does, I don’t get any credit.  If it doesn’t, don’t blame me.

We don’t often pursue our hopes any further than this.  But what we are really hoping for reveals what is in our heart, what we are actively desiring.  This is the world-view that shapes and forms our hearts, the world-view that we bring to our encounter with life.  What we hope for is what we are willing to wait for, to suffer for, and to sacrifice for.  It is what calls for our commitment and perseverance. It determines what we are willing to let happen in our lives.

We are filled with small hopes: hopes for a good meal; hopes for a pay raise; hopes for health and healing.  Some are within our reach.  We can do something about them, find some satisfaction.  But often our hopes are small because we don’t want to be disappointed.  Because we have been disappointed and find that unbearable.  It is easier to be stoic, resigned, cynical, or even despairing.  Our hopes become small and within reach, and then our souls become small and unable to reach.

During a monastic profession, a monk prays three times:   Receive me O Lord according to your promise.  Do not let me be disappointed in my hope.  This is the beginning of a new venture based on hope and open to the possibility of disappointment. Only a naïve understanding would think that a monk is on a sure path, guaranteed of success and fulfilment.  When it is a matter of letting God’s will be done, there loom great questions of our readiness to engage our freedom and choice in knowing and doing this will.  The higher (or deeper) challenges of life are in greater jeopardy than those which seem more self-evident.  Our lives are littered with failures, losses, and disappointments which seem more bitter the nearer they are to our hearts.  Both the words compunction and disappointment have their roots in pungere, to prick or pierce.  They pierce our hearts.  Vaclav Havel has said that hope is the certainty that something makes sense and is meaningful, regardless of how it turns out.

To say the least, the early church and the disciples were disappointed by the crucifixion of the man who seemed to bear their hopes.  They were plunged into dark desolation by the events that took away the center of their lives.  They have taken away our Lord.  We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Lk 24:21).  They were indeed disappointed. Their heart had been pierced.  Were they disappointed in their hope?  Mary Magdalen’s hope was led through her misapprehensions to a discovery of its real source in the Risen Lord.  Her sorrow was love’s own way of plunging into the new depths of reality transformed by Christ’s resurrection.  Why are you weeping? What are you grieving for.  This grief is far from cynicism or resignation.  It is penetrating to a real vision of reality that is attained in hope. Tears and deep sorrow cleanse our vision to recognize the Lord as he meets us in freedom.  I have seen the Lord.  Our dismay that they have taken away our Lord may simply be stopping short at the forms in which we have expected to see the Lord.  We may find that we are paying  homage and allegiance to the very forces and powers that would dismiss the reality of Jesus as Lord, living with the Father in glory.  The disappointments that life seems to produce so abundantly can make us stop short, to numb ourselves in skepticism or cynicism.  Or, by the very sorrow that we experience, lead us to the roots of our hope and our heart to see the Lord in new ways.