An Act of Love

08-19-2018This Week in Vidi DominumFr. Chris Axline

I remember the first time I experienced Eucharistic Adoration; I was in college and 21 years old. The experience was amazing and I left adoration elated at having spent that intimate time with Christ and disappointed that I, a cradle Catholic, had never experienced this before! I also remember being drawn to Adoration and spending time adoring Our Lord whenever I had the chance, specifically if it was late at night. I was never one who stayed up late in college and so getting up at 2:00am was difficult for me. But I chose that time with the Lord specifically because it disrupted my routine! Every time the alarm went off, I had a choice to make; will I get up and offer this to the Lord, or would I selfishly roll over and go back to bed?

I'm glad that I chose the former, to spend that time with the Lord. It changed my life. In other words, like St. Mary Magdalene, I was able to choose the better part. During this time, I noticed that yes, 2:00am hurt and was inconvenient, but I also noticed that because it was uncomfortable, going to that 2:00am holy hour became an act of love! Furthermore, looking at St. Mary Magdalene, it's this same act of Love that drove her to the tomb that Sunday morning. She possesses a love that seeks Christ even in darkness and in the face of death as He alone brings her comfort.

This is why St. Mary Magdalene is a worthy patron - she helps us to follow her example. The Gospel passage from John 20:1-2, 11-18 shows us how Mary Magdalene was constantly seeking the Lord. For example, in her dialogue with the "gardener" and the angels, she turns back and forth after questioning both parties about where she can find the body of Christ. Only when she hears her name does she stop and then encounter the Lord! She's heard her name and steps forward to the new life Christ offers her. Christ always calls us by name!

I remember another instance that brought this to bear in my life. My first year of seminary I was given an assignment to work with a youth group from a nearby parish. One day, we were playing a game in small groups where the teens were broken into groups of about 10. One student was blindfolded and told to complete an obstacle course. Another student was to guide their blindfolded peer through said course. The rest of the teens got to distract the blindfolded one however they wished, with one exception: they were not allowed to touch the teen. Watching this, I remember one young girl complete the obstacle in almost record time without faltering or stumbling even once! When asked in the post-session wrap-up how she did it, her answer surprised me. She spoke about how she could hear all the voices overwhelming her at first, but then she heard one voice that was different: it called her by name. This voice, she said, was not the loudest of voices (in fact it was the softest voice), but it was the only one that spoke to her by name and she knew that was the voice that would guide her! So, she drowned out every other voice and walked. This is exactly what St. Mary Magdalene teaches us to do with Christ!

Mary Magdalene had to drown out those voices that told her hope was lost after Christ's death. How would she roll a two ton stone away by herself? How could she overcome trained Roman soldiers to get to the stone, roll it away, enter the tomb, and get to Christ's body? Was everything she had seen over the last few years a lie? These, and many other voices plagued Mary Magdalene that Sunday morning, yet it was her love for Christ that drove her on. She set her eyes on Him again and was persistent in her pursuit of Him and she found her vindication! As we learn from St. Mary Magdalene, keeping our gaze on Christ is the only way we, as His disciples, can navigate the temptations, joys, and struggles of everyday life as this encounter, motivated by Love, compels us onward!

Mary Magdalene shows us, as we hear in today's Gospel, what it means to "remain" with and in the Lord. If we look to her life, we can see that her life centered on Christ, and it was to Him alone that she gave her devotion. As the John 20 passage reminds us, Mary's first word to the Risen Christ is "Rabbouni" which we are told translates to teacher. How then, did Mary Magdalene learn from Christ? By sitting at His feet in humility and in prayer. Also, from the first moment she encountered Christ, she knew that He had something unique to offer that this world could not and that by gazing upon Him, she (and we who follow her example) are able to come to the Father! If we look at St. Mary Magdalene, and all the others who followed Christ in the Gospels, there's a certain power in Christ's gaze as most of the time He calls people to Him with few words. What is it then about Christ that is so attractive? It's His ability to speak to our hearts! How powerful this is, especially in our modern world where we are saturated by words while our hearts are left unfulfilled! This is what it means to be taught by God; to let Him speak to our heart and to see in Christ, the manifestation of God's desire for us to be with Him forever. In God made flesh, we see the face of Him for whom our heart longs the most! This, my brothers and sisters, is choosing the better part. May St. Mary Magdalene always intercede for us and help us to gaze the gaze of Love as we look upon Christ now and forever.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!