CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Mary Magdalene a Christian exemplar

By the express wish of Pope Francis, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced that starting from this year, the celebration of the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22 is to be elevated and inscribed in the Church’s liturgical calendar with the rank of a feast.

She now enjoys the same status as the apostles in that she played a positive role in Jesus’ life as the apostle to the apostles. This express wish of Pope Francis not only demonstrates the meaning of the Jubilee of Mercy, but is also consistent with his care for the status and role of women in the Church and society.

In the liturgical calendar, a feast has second highest ranking. Most feasts are related to the life of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, an apostle or early life of the Church.

Today, apart from Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene has become the first woman to be given a feast, illustrating the importance attached to her.

Some people think that this is a belated recognition of Mary Magdalene, who has already been recognised as the first messenger of the Lord’s resurrection to the apostles, signifying her importance in the ministry of Jesus.

Some theologians comment that Mary Magdalene may be described as the Mother of the Church, because she had a full understanding of Jesus’ mission.

As a saint, Mary Magdalene is a model for all, men and women. The congregation stressed that people should follow her example, reflecting deeply on the dignity of women, the New Evangelisation and the greatness of the mystery of Divine Mercy.

Some theologians acclaim Mary Magdalene highly as a courageous and loyal disciple, who all along followed Jesus closely. During the several years of Jesus’ public ministry, Mary Magdalene not only supported Jesus and his disciples, but also followed him until his last moment.

In spite of the crisis of the moment, she unflinchingly stayed beneath the cross and waited at the tomb. It is by no means an accident that she became the first witness to his resurrection. Although she experienced human weakness, as Pope Benedict XVI said, she had the humility to ask for his help, was healed, forgiven and granted mercy, setting out to follow him closely, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.

Today, the status and role of women in the world seem to have been greatly elevated and there are some women leaders in society and the Church. However, the dignity and rights of many women have not been recognised or gained attention.

While traditional stereotypes of gender roles are still evident, women deserve better room for development in society and even in the Church. Under the influence of the values in mainstream society, many people in the Church ignore the needs of marginalised communities and lack an understanding of their causes.

It is encouraging to see the recognition of Mary Magdalene by the Holy See in that it recognises the role of women. The Church must set a good example by affirming in deed that men and women, despite their differences, have equal value. SE