St. Gregory the Great got it wrong identifying Mary Magdalene with Mary, the sister of Lazarus and the sinful woman (Luke 7,38ff) who washed Jesus’ feet. Yet, his description of her spirituality is right on.
Here’s an excerpt from his beautiful sermon in today’s Liturgy of the Hours:
“We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
“At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
“Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.”
Some recently, using flimsy evidence from 3rd and 4th century gnostic writings, want to “de-mythologize” Jesus and romanticize his relationship with Mary. Some claim he was even married to her. Their claims have been sensationalized in the media and unfortunately get a wide hearing.
Better to listen to the earlier witness of the four gospels and the evidence of the New Testament. They recognize Mary as a disciple who was one of many women followers of Jesus and loved him. Their witness is older and more reliable. There’s also new archeological evidence about Magdala, Mary’s hometown, that helps us understand Mary Magdalene. Take a look.
If only we lived our lives in sanity.
In the world.
In the Word.
“[Holy Father]…I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.”
We can look at Moses in different ways. Like some historians, we might say “What does “real” history say about him?” Or, we could also see Moses strictly as a type of Christ, as the deacon Stephen does in the Acts of the Apostles before he’s killed. Or, we could see Moses as an example of how God calls all of us in life. That’s what the great 4th century Cappadocian mystic, Gregory of Nyssa, does in his classic work “The Life of Moses.”
We all want to see God. That’s what Moses wants during his 120 years of life. In Gregory’s view, Moses is not just an extraordinary Jewish leader to be judged by his accomplishments. More than that, he shows us what it means to be called to see the face of God.
Today’s reading (Exodus 2,1-15) is an account of Moses’ first 40 years. They’re dangerous years.. To save him from being eaten by animals, his Jewish mother puts him in the river in a little boat ( the word for boat in Exodus is the same word used in Genesis for Noah’s ark) So Moses– and all of us too– are placed in the river of life, with a mission from God and the promised protection of his covenant.
Gregory of Nyssa sees Moses’ adoption by Pharoah’s daughter as another lesson about life. As he makes his way to God, Moses is given human gifts–the wealth of Egypt– and divine gifts. We’re also given human and divine gifts too, and we have to use them too.
Moses’ first forty years end with the killing of the Egyptian and his subsequent flight to the desert of Midian. Choosing to stand with his own people Moses chooses to stand with God. In life we’re also constantly called to make that choice. If we wish to see the face of God, we must choose it.
Moses’ next forty years are spent in solitude in the mountains of Midian where he lives a virtuous life, finally meeting God in the burning bush. Then, at eighty years, he’s sent on to the next stage of his life: leading his people through the desert to the promised land.
Eighty years old is hardly a good time to begin something as big as that, is it? But Gregory sees Moses’ life as an inward journey, a constant journey, a journey that has nothing to do with age. Moses never thinks he’s old:
“…the great Moses, becoming ever greater, never stopped his ascent, never set a limit to his upward course. Once setting his foot on the ladder that God set up (as Jacob says) he continually climbed to the step above and never ceased to rise higher, because there was always a step higher than the one he attained…though lifted up through such lofty experiences, he’s still unsatisfied in his desire for more. He still thirsts for what seems beyond his capacity… beseeching God to appear to him, not according to his capacity, but according to God’s true being.
“Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul who loves the beautiful. Hope always draws the soul from the beauty that’s seen to what ‘s beyond; it always kindles the desire for what’s hidden from what’s now known. Boldly requesting to go up the mountain of desires the soul asks to enjoy Beauty, not in mirrors, or reflections, but face to face. “ (Gregory of Nyssa)
“Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.” T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
By Orlando Hernandez
In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 11: 25-27 ) Jesus prays to His Father:
AT THAT TIME JESUS EXCLAIMED: “ I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. “
It is lovely to hear Jesus pray. Lately, in Scripture reading and in prayer, I have come to truly relish those moments when I find myself witnessing the relationship between the Father and the Son. I almost feel invited to be part of this Divine love-dance. The requirement to participate seems to be to become as small, humble, accepting, trusting, and carefree as a child.
I used to think of the Person of the Father as the tough, judgmental, aloof one, as opposed to my Lord Jesus, the loving, forgiving, understanding “older brother”. But Christ, from the beginning of my conversion, has come to “reveal” our Father in a special way for me.
I must have been about five years old when I got very sick after emigrating to Venezuela from Cuba. It seems I had a respiratory infection that kept me out of school for a long time. My parents told me even my liver was affected, and I was jaundiced and very thin. I remember very little, but I truly believe that my Lord placed this vivid memory from that time into my heart :
At the end of a long, hot day at work, my father, Orlando Sr., had just come into our one-room apartment and sat me on his lap. I idolized the man. He had a faint “ aroma” of sweat, cigarettes, and cologne. The stubble of his beard tickled my cheek as I hugged him tightly crying “Pappy!”. He felt so refreshing against my feverish skin. I looked into his shining eyes, and the bright blue color seemed to flow like rivers and waterfalls over all that was me. I just knew that everything was going to be all right. I was delighted to be in his arms. Now I wonder, was he weeping over me?
Sixty-two years later, every time I
quietly, privately, slowly say the Lord’s Prayer, the image of this memory colors my perception of my Heavenly Father, loving, forgiving, adopting me, holding me in his powerful arms, accepting me within His blissful immensity. I truly feel like a kid. At some point during that prayer I always remember to say “ Thank you Jesus, for showing me how your Father really is.” I don’t ever want to leave this
“heaven”, this “kingdom”, this child-like trust in this Will that only wills the best for me, and for all of humanity.
“I give praise to you,Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” I love You so much! Thank You!
Jesus Christ is Real.
He is not made of wood or ink or paint. He is not a distant figure from a distant past. He is here. We gather in His name—He is here. He is as real as each one of us. He is what makes each one of us real.
The message is simple:
He is the Son of God. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. He is Love. He is Forgiveness. He is Humility. He is Boldness and Obedience.
He is Lord. He is God. He is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
He is Christ Jesus, and He is Real.
I see Him now in each of you. I say to Him, I say to you: “I love You, my Lord and my God.”
Now, let us go and tell others…
“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
— Matthew 28:20
The 11th and 12th chapters of Matthew’s gospel, which we’re reading these days at Mass, describe the growing opposition to Jesus as he preaches and performs miracles in Galilee.
Not only do the Pharisees begin to oppose him and plot to put him to death, but the towns where he’s been–Capernaum, Corazin–seem to forget him. Those chapters end with another source of opposition that may surpise us. His own family from Nazareth seems to misunderstand him. It’s a dark part of Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus answers this opposition in chapter 13 in a series of parables. He begins with the parable of the sower sowing his seed. The seed doesn’t always fall on good ground, he reminds his disciples. Sometimes it falls on the path where it quickly dries up– like the towns that welcome him enthusiastically and soon forget him.
The parable of the weeds and the wheat points to enemies who want to poison the power and beauty of his words and deeds because of their own claims. The Pharisees did that.
The kingdom of God comes in smallness. It’s like the mustard seed, not a full grown tree. You can miss it if you’re looking for something fully grown and done. The treasure is hidden in a field; you may discover almost accidentally. Maybe Jesus’ own extended family in Nazareth still saw him as just the little boy they knew before and could not appreciate him now. We underestimate small things and what they can grow to be.
But the kingdom of heaven is also like a merchant in search of fine pearls. You have to keep searching for it all your life. You can’t give up that search. Keep looking, hoping searching.
Jesus concludes his teaching with the parable of the net cast into the sea that catches fish of every kind, good and bad. At the end of time, the net will be dragged to shore and the good will be separated from the bad.
His parables are about the real world, the world Jesus experienced. They also give us a good template to look at the world we live in, which is not far from his.