Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Chartres Meditation 10: St Thomas and St Mary Magdalen

St Thomas and St Mary Magdalen

Dear Pilgrims, the spires of Notre Dame de Chartres are near, and the Risen Christ is walking with us, ready to surprise us with His presence, full of love. Today we are marching under the double patronage of St Thomas the Apostle and St Mary Magdalen., the Apostle of the apostles! Mary Magdalen and Thomas, two figures reeling from their meeting with the Risen One! Two hearts that Christ wounds with His merciful love. Two apostles on fire to bring the good news of His victorious love to the world.

The apostle knows how and why Jesus chose him. According to the Gospel, Thomas was chosen along with the other apostles in order to be with Jesus. The life of Mary Magdalen could also be summed up in those few words: to be with Jesus.

Let us contemplate those two saints: we will then see how for us, also, to be with Jesus means, in the first place, to allow ourselves to fall in love with His person, then to follow Him wherever He goes, to listen to Him and to ask Him questions, to touch Him, and finally to discover His risen presence and become His apostle.

1               To be with Jesus: is first to allow ourselves to fall in love with Him.

Mary Magdalen: the repentant sinner
Along with the whole tradition of the Latin Church, we recognise in Mary Magdalen that sinner who emerges in the middle of the meal, in the house of Simon the Pharisee. In a mad gesture, she ignores all the social and religious rules to speak her penitent love for the One whom she recognised as her Saviour. Jesus Himself explains her actions to the Pharisee, who is scandalised by her audacity:

You see this woman?... I came into your house, and you did not bathe my feet. But she, she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting; but she has not stopped kissing my feet from the moment I came in. You poured no oil on my head, but she, she has perfumed my feet.  That is why I say to you that her many sins are forgiven her, for she has loved greatly. But whoever is forgiven little, loves little.

Mary Magdalen realised that Jesus is the one who has come to forgive everything and to allow us to love without measure. She allows herself to fall in love with Jesus, be attracted to Him, and to His merciful goodness. She let her heart be open to the love of Jesus… She decided to be with Him.

Thomas, one of the first disciples (cf Mk 3, 13-19)
What happened to make this pragmatic Jew from Galilee leave all his business affairs, his family and his settled life, and set out to live as a vagabond? The answer is simple enough: Thomas met Jesus, and His unforgettable goodness was enough to set him on that road. We see him in the crowds of disciples following Jesus on the roads of Galilee, and even on the mountain.

And you, my friend, the Pilgrim?  Listen carefully now, because it is your Lord who is talking to you…

You are of great worth in my eyes, and I, your Lord and your God, I love you, just as I loved Thomas and Mary Magdalen. Will you allow yourself to be taken into the desert so that I can talk to your heart, make you fall in love with me, and fill you with my Love? Your sins are just one more reason: think about Mary Magdalen again… Allow yourself to be overcome by my love…

2               To be with Jesus – is also to follow Him wherever He goes

Thomas – who follows Him everywhere, no matter what the cost (cf John 11, 16)
For Thomas, that generous heart, passionate for Christ, to follow Jesus is the only thing that matters, even if the price to be paid is high. When Jesus announces His will, to return to Judea, in order to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead, the disciples point out the danger which He is running by returning to Judea. But Jesus stands by His decision. Then Thomas intervenes and says: Let us go, too, and die with Him.

Mary Magdalen and the women are collaborators in His mission (cf Luke 8,1-3)
Sure of Jesus’ pardon, and freed from the seven devils which her sinful life attracted into her soul, Mary Magdalen left her comfortable and voluptuous life in order to devote herself to Jesus and His mission. With a few women from the higher social ranks of the Jews, she put her person and her riches at the service of the little evangelising group, and shared all the discomforts of their itinerant life. That is how she demonstrated her love for our Lord.

And you, my friend, the Pilgrim?  Listen carefully now, because it is your Lord who is talking to you…

If anyone would be my disciple, let him renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’ Will you walk in my footsteps all the days of your life? Are you ready to leave your luke-warm and superficial life and put your whole person and all your goods at the service of the Gospel, at the service of the Joy which my Father gives to me, and which I want to share with the entire world?

3               To be with Jesus…  is to listen to Him and to enter into a conversation with Him.

The woman at Jesus’ feet (cf Luke 10, 38-42)
When we consider Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who the Latin tradition identifies with Mary Magdalen, we think of that woman sat at the feet of the Lord, in order to listen to His word. Jesus tells us that it is the one thing necessary, and is therefore the priority over everything else. And when Martha complains of her sister’s inaction, he says: Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, but only one is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her.’

The Apostle who listens and asks questions (cf John 14, 2-6)

In the context of the confidences that Jesus shared with His disciples before the Last Supper, Thomas is also one of those who listened carefully. His spontaneous comment bears witness to that. Jesus was talking to His disciples of His leaving them, and told them:

In my Father’s house there are many rooms… I am going there and I am going to prepare a place for you. And when I have gone, and I have prepared a place for you, I will return to you and I will take you with me, so that where I am, you also may be. And you know the way to where I am going.

Then, doubtless as disconcerted as the other eleven by all that their Master was telling them, on that Maundy Thursday evening, Thomas replied:

Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how could we know the way?

And you, my friend, the Pilgrim?  Listen carefully now, because it is your Lord who is talking to you…

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word… Dear Pilgrim, if you knew how much I desired to speak to your heart, in the silence of prayer, and as you read my words… What are you doing with my Gospel?

Follow the example of St Mary Magdalen, the saint at my feet, finding true happiness in listening to my words. Be like Thomas the Apostle, and ask me questions. At the very least we will get to know each other. And then, doubtless, you will hear me answer you, as I did Thomas: I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father, except by me…

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