The history of the character of the Gospels that we call Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala is confusing to say the least. This confusion is caused simply because there are so many women in the Gospels who are known by the name Mary. As has happened with many common names from the Bible, sometimes two or more characters are conflated into one.
We know two things about Mary Magdalene for sure. She is identified as a woman who was possessed by seven demons and who was healed by Jesus. She is also the first one to whom Jesus appeared after the Resurrection. Though each of the Gospels has a different empty tomb story, they all agree on one detail; namely, that Mary Magdalene was one of the women who went to the tomb.
The passage that we read today picks up the story of the resurrection where we left off on Sunday. Mary is searching for the body of Jesus. First she sees two angels. Then she sees someone who she thinks is the caretaker of the garden in which the tomb is located. She recognizes Jesus when he calls her by name, “Mary.”
This particular Jewish name probably comes from the Egyptian name Maryam, which means “Beloved.” Some Scripture scholars have even gone so far as to identify her as the Beloved Disciple of St. John’s Gospel.
Jesus called Mary by name just as he calls each of us by name. We received our name when we were baptized or christened. Names in the Scriptures are important because they reveal something about that person. We are even told that our names are written on the palm of God’s hand. This particular story shows us the intimate nature of God’s knowledge of each of us. God knows you and me by name.
Knowledge of our names is also a sign of God’s love for each of us. We are not numbers in a crowd. We are not faceless figures in the mass of humanity. In God’s eyes, we are all the objects of God’s love. God’s love for you and me is a personal, intimate bond that is created by our faith in Jesus’ resurrection.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator