|"The Repentant Mary Magdalene" -- by James Tissot|
Mary Magdalen, a sister of Lazarus and of Martha, of Bethany, was a notorious sinner in Jerusalem. Moved by the preaching of Jesus, she did public penance. She went openly into the house of the Pharisee with whom Jesus was sitting at table, threw herself at His feet, anointed them with precious ointment, washed them with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Jesus, knowing her contrite heart, forgave her her sins (Luke 7:37, 38), and from that time forward she became the most zealous and faithful of the women who were disciples of Our Lord. She followed Him, always ministered unto Him of her substance (Luke 8:3), and when He died was standing under the cross.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be helped by the intercession of blessed Mary Magdalen, at whose prayers Thou didst raise up again to life her brother Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Who livest, and reignest, for ever and ever. Amen.
Epistle: Canticle 3:2-5; 8:6,7
I will rise and will go about the city; in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth; I sought him and I found him not. The watchmen who keep the city found me: Have you seen him whom my soul loveth? When I had a little passed by them, I found him whom my soul loveth. I held him; and I will not let him go till I bring him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that bore me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and the harts of the fields, that you stir not up, nor awake my beloved till she please. Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is strong as death; jealousy as hard as hell; the lamps thereof are fire and flame. Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it; if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing.
The soul that, following the direction of the watchmen, that is, the priests, teachers, and rulers of the Church, seeks Jesus, He goes to meet, gives Himself up to, takes up His abode in, with all His love, with all His treasures. The soul which has found Christ for delight forgets all outward things, and no longer has love or joy but for and in Christ. How should it be otherwise? What can be wanting to him who truly possesses Christ? This love for Him Who loved us unto death shows itself by outward acts that are heroic. So Mary Magdalen loved Jesus. Follow her example.
Gospel: Luke 7:36-50
At that time: One of the Pharisees desired Jesus to eat with him. And He went into the house of the Pharisee, and sat down to meat. And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that He sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and standing behind, at His feet, she began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. And the Pharisee, who had invited Him, seeing it, spoke within himself, saying: This man, if He were a prophet, would know surely who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him, that she is a sinner. And Jesus answering, said to him: Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee. But he said: Master, say it. A certain creditor had two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And whereas they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which, therefore, of the two loveth him most? Simon answering, said: I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And He said to him: Thou hast judged rightly. And turning to the woman, He said unto Simon: Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet; but she with tears hath washed My feet, and with her hairs hath wiped them. Thou gavest Me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed My feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. And He said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves: Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And He said to the woman: Thy faith hath made thee safe, go in peace.
Magdalen, who had sinned openly, openly did penance. In like manner, he who has given public scandal must seek to make amends for it by public good example.
Magdalen confessed her sins, says Saint Ambrose, not with words, but with abundant tears of penitence. To tell her sins to Christ, the All-knowing, was not necessary; but what a confession was there in the posture of humiliation, and in the tears that flowed from the contrite sinner. Would you obtain forgiveness? Confess with contrition, like Magdalen.
The words, “Thy faith hath made thee safe,” denote a faith active as love. Faith and love are in truth never separated, for he only truly believes who also loves; and he only loves according to God’s will who believes in Him. Therefore believe in truth, love, and show your love by earnest hatred of every sin, by flying from occasions of sin, by fighting against your passions, by change of your life, and by humble confession, and as true as God lives you will be saved, as was Magdalen; the peace of God will enter into your heart.
O most loving Jesus, give me an earnest will to forsake all evil, and to return to Thee, my chief good, to repent of my sins out of true love, to guard against them for the future, to shun the occasion by which I have hitherto been enticed into sin, and by the practice of good works to redeem the time lost. Grant me this, O Jesus, by Thy bitter passion and death, and through the intercession of the holy penitent Magdalen. Amen.
-- Goffine’s Devout Instructions