Fr. Paul Brian Campbell, S.J.
Mary from Magdala [a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee] has suffered from a mistake by Pope Gregory 1st who, in his Easter sermons in 591, confused Mary Magdalene, [introduced in Luke 8:2], with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’ feet [Luke 7:36-50] The result was a widespread but erroneous belief that Mary was a repentant prostitute. This false impression lasted right down to the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, where Mary Magdalene sings, “I don’t know how to love him…He’s just a man, and I’ve had so many men before… I want him so. I love him so.” But it’s all wrong. If anything, Mary was a “Super Disciple.”
Mary of Magdala is mentioned by name twelve times in the four Gospels, more often than most of the apostles and more than any woman except the Blessed Virgin Mary. Luke [8:2-3] lists her as one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support him “out of their resources,” [which indicates that she was probably quite well off.] According to the Gospels, she was a witness to the Crucifixion, and, in the Synoptic Gospels, she is also present at his burial.
The Gospels all identify her, alone or as part of a larger group of women as the first to witness the empty tomb and thus the first to witness Jesus’ Resurrection. For these reasons, St. Thomas Aquinas called her the “apostle to the apostles.” A 2006 Smithsonian Magazine article went so far as to claim, that “it seems that her status as an “apostle,” in the years after Jesus’ death, rivaled even that of Peter.”
Mary never denied Our Lord or ran away in fear as most of the other disciples did. She remained close to Him every moment. May we, too, always stay close to Jesus.