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God dreams big and ‘calls us by name,’ Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual’s pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said.

“He calls us by name and tells us, ‘Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,’” the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John’s account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb.

She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love.

In Mary Magdalene’s case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ’s death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.

Just as she is weeping near the tomb, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the pope said, even though she is stubbornly “blind” to recognizing the two angels and the Risen Christ.

Eventually, he said, “she discovers the most earth-shattering event in human history when she is finally called by name.”

“How beautiful it is to think that the first appearance of the Risen One, according to the Gospels, happened in such a personal way. That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and disappointment,” whose heart breaks “for us and who calls us by name,” he said.

Reading the Gospels, one can see how many people seek God, he said, “but the most extraordinary fact is that God was there in the first place,” long before, watching, worrying and wanting to bring relief.

Each and every person “is a story of love that God has written on this earth,” the pope said. “Each one of us is a story of God’s love” and he patiently waits and forgives each person.

Hearing God call her name revolutionized Mary Magdalene’s life just as it will revolutionize and transform the life of every man and woman, he said.

Christ’s resurrection brings a joy that does not come in dribs and drabs “with an eyedropper,” he said, but as “a waterfall” that will envelop one’s whole life.

The life of a Christian isn’t pervaded by “soft bliss, but by waves that knock everything over,” Pope Francis said. Think about it right now, he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “With the baggage of disappointments and defeat that each one of us carries in our heart, there is a God near us, calling us by name,” he said.

This God is not “inert,” he doesn’t bend to the whims of the world, and he will not let death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people have the last word.

“Our God,” the pope said, “is a dreamer, who dreams of the transformation of the world and achieved it with the mystery of the resurrection.”

The pope prayed that St. Mary Magdalene would help people listen to Jesus calling their name as they weep and mourn, and that they then venture forth with hearts filled with joy, proclaiming his living presence to others.

Having witnessed the Lord, “is our strength and our hope,” he said.

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Cardinal calls Christians to be like St. Mary Madalene on her feast day

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to be like St. Mary Magdalene, who adored Christ upon finding him, an action that has somewhat lost its meaning in the church, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

St. Mary Magdalene is depicted in a stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Pope Francis has raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast that is celebrated July 22 on the church's liturgical calendar. (CNS photo/ Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

St. Mary Magdalene is depicted in a stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Pope Francis has raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast that is celebrated July 22 on the church’s liturgical calendar. (CNS photo/ Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

He said the July 22 feast of St. Mary Magdalene also serves as a reminder of the need to recuperate “the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the church and in liturgical celebrations.”

“I believe, and I say so humbly, that we Christians perhaps have lost a bit the meaning of adoration. And we think: We go to church, we gather together like brothers, and it is good and beautiful. But the center is there where God is. And we adore God,” he wrote in an article published July 21 in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast on the church’s liturgical calendar June 10 in a decree, “Apostolorum Apostola” (“Apostle of the Apostles”) which formalized the decision and was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

While most liturgical celebrations of individual saints during the year are known formally as memorials, those classified as feasts are reserved for important events in Christian history and for saints of particular significance, such as the Twelve Apostles.

As the first to announce Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles, Cardinal Sarah wrote, St. Mary Magdalene was “a witness of divine mercy,” and her feast day can help men and women deepen their roles as followers of Christ through adoration and mission.

Adoration, he continued, is what is most important and “not the songs or rites, as beautiful as they are.”

“What does it mean to adore God then? It means to learn to be with him, to stop in order to speak with him, to feel that his presence is the most true, the most good and the most important of all,” he wrote.

Citing St. John Paul II’s writings on the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” Cardinal Sarah highlighted the need “to give God the first place” in order to encounter Christ, his mercy and his love.

“Mary Magdalene is the first witness of this dual behavior: to adore Christ and to make him known,” he wrote. By centering “our lives on Christ and on his Gospel,” Cardinal Sarah said Christians can model themselves after the “apostle of the apostles” who “comes out of herself to go toward Christ through adoration and mission.”

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Pope elevates liturgical celebration of St. Mary Magdalene, ‘evangelist,’ to a feast day

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Recognizing St. Mary Magdalene’s role as the first to witness Christ’s resurrection and as a “true and authentic evangelizer,” Pope Francis raised the July 22 memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast on the church’s liturgical calendar, the Vatican announced.

The Congregation for Divine Worship published a decree formalizing the decision June 10 along with an article explaining its significance.

St. Mary Magdalene is shown meditating on the crucifix in this painted wooden sculpture that is part of The Sacred Made Real exhibit in 2010 at the National Galley of Art in Washington. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

St. Mary Magdalene is shown meditating on the crucifix in this painted wooden sculpture that is part of The Sacred Made Real exhibit in 2010 at the National Galley of Art in Washington. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Both the decree and the article were titled “Apostolorum Apostola” (“Apostle of the Apostles”).

In the article for the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the congregation, wrote that in celebrating “an evangelist who proclaims the central joyous message of Easter,” St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a call for all Christians to “reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy.”

“Pope Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to highlight the relevance of this woman who showed great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ,” Archbishop Roche wrote.

While most liturgical celebrations of individual saints during the year are known formally as memorials, those classified as feasts are reserved for important events in Christian history and for saints of particular significance, such as the Twelve Apostles.

In his apostolic letter “Dies Domini” (“The Lord’s Day”), St. John Paul II explained that the “commemoration of the saints does not obscure the centrality of Christ, but on the contrary extols it, demonstrating as it does the power of the redemption wrought by him.”

Preaching about St. Mary Magdalene, Pope Francis highlighted Christ’s mercy toward a woman who was “exploited and despised by those who believed they were righteous,” but she was loved and forgiven by him.

Her tears at Christ’s empty tomb are a reminder that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus,” the pope said April 2, 2013, during Mass in his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis also mentions her specifically in the prayer he composed for the Year of Mercy: “Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured paradise to the repentant thief.”

Archbishop Roche explained that in giving St. Mary Magdalene the honor of being the first person to see the empty tomb and the first to listen to the truth of the resurrection, “Jesus has a special consideration and mercy for this woman, who manifests her love for him, looking for him in the garden with anguish and suffering.”

Drawing a comparison between Eve, who “spread death where there was life,” and St. Mary Magdalene, who “proclaimed life from the tomb, a place of death,” the archbishop said her feast day is a lesson for all Christians to trust in Christ who is “alive and risen.”

“It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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