https://catholicoutlook.org/how-an-outcast-became-the-first-witness-of-the-resurrection/

How an outcast became the first witness of the Resurrection

St Mary Magdalene became the first witness of the Resurrection to the Apostles. Hence, she came to be called “the apostle of Apostles”.
St Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Jesus. Image: LDS Media Library, (www.lds.org/media-library) © 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

By Ben Smith, Director of the Family & Life Office, Diocese of Parramatta

Catholic Outlook, Volume 19, April 2016

We are now in the season of Easter in which we ponder the Resurrection of the Lord. Some key questions to consider are:

* What is the relevance of the Resurrection to our modern technological world?

* How does the Resurrection fit with the Year of Mercy?

To answer these questions it is worth looking more closely at the events of Easter Sunday.

One thing that is surprising is that, according to John’s Gospel, St Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Jesus. She did not recognise Him at first, but when He spoke her name she was moved with such emotion and surprise that she wouldn’t let go of Him.

Fresh from this experience, she became the first witness of the Resurrection to the Apostles. Hence, she came to be called “the apostle of Apostles” by various theologians and, most recently, by St John Paul II.

The central importance of St Mary Magdalene in the Easter story is significant.

The central importance of St Mary Magdalene in the Easter story is significant.

The central importance of St Mary Magdalene in the Easter story is significant. One might wonder why Jesus didn’t first appear to Mary His mother, or even St John, His beloved disciple. They both seemed to be respectable people in terms of Jewish society.

On the other hand, St Mary Magdalene would have been seen as an outcast. The Gospels record that Jesus cast seven demons out of her during His public ministry. She would have lived in a state of desolation until she experienced the healing love of Jesus.

So Jesus’ choice of St Mary Magdalene as the first witness of the Resurrection has a special significance for people who would be considered outcasts or sinners, and this gives all of us hope.

This Easter hope is of relevance for the modern world. Despite all the progress over the past century, the legacy of two world wars, the rise of Nazism and Communism and the social upheaval since the late 1960s has left modern man in a state of spiritual desolation.

Pope Francis recently highlighted that: “The fragility of our era is this … we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.”[1]

Pope Francis sees that people of our era need concrete experiences of mercy so that we can really feel forgiven and thus be healed from the damage caused by sin.

The Resurrection gives us hope that we can be healed. Central to our faith is our belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. His glorified body was a witness to new life, transformation and redemption, but it also bore the wounds of His crucifixion as St Thomas discovered in the Upper Room.

His wounds remind us of the image of Jesus as the wounded Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus’ death and resurrection destroyed the power of both sin and death.

The Church’s Easter message has a special relevance in the Year of Mercy. It is also fitting that the Feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated in the season of Easter.

The past three Popes have made it an important part of their ministry.  Pope Francis has made mercy central to his pontificate, and this has culminated in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Our world is sorely in need of experiencing God’s mercy and the hope of the Resurrection. St Mary Magdalene’s role in proclaiming the Resurrection should inspire us all.

[1] The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis, Pg 16

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