Our first reading today comes from the ordinary cycle of readings for Ordinary Time, whereas the Gospel reading is proper to the feast of St Mary Magdalen. However, I think that having these two readings together is actually very instructive.
The reading from the book of Exodus gives us an account of the Ten Commandments, as given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. These commandments are clearly meant to be taken very seriously, and in the Old Testament, there were rather harsh punishments for breaking them. Despite the fact that commandments and punishments can be a little intimidating, they are really a blessing, because they are meant to teach us how to act rightly, in accord with the wisdom and goodness of God’s plan.
Until she met Jesus, Mary Magdalene was not known for keeping the commandments. While we don’t know much about her background, St. Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. “Seven” here is not necessarily a precise number; it is usually used in the Scriptures as a symbolic number signifying perfection or completeness. So, Mary Magdalen was completely under the sway of sin. She must have broken many of the Ten Commandments, but she repented, and Jesus freed her from her slavery to vice. From then on, she became one of the Lord’s most faithful disciples. According to the Gospels, it was to her that Jesus first appeared after His resurrection.
This teaches us a very important lesson: even the worst sinner is called to holiness, and it is never too late for conversion. On one hand, this should give us hope for ourselves; we all have sins and run the risk of discouragement. On the other hand, we should never give up completely on anyone, nor look down on anyone. We should see everyone, no matter what state they are in, as a child of God called to holiness, the object of our love and prayers. Let us ask Mary Magdalene today to pray for all of us, but especially those in our cities and towns who are farthest from God, that we may all be granted the grace of true conversion of heart, so that we – like Mary Magdalene – may some day rejoice in the presence of our Risen Lord.