Some 250 people — men, women and children of all ages — entered the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil Masses celebrated April 11 throughout the Diocese of Davenport.
Bishop Martin Amos welcomed all new members into the church. In the homily he delivered at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, the bishop told the Easter story through the perspective of Mary Magdalene, a woman Jesus had healed and who became his disciple.
The bishop observed that Mary Magdalene played a key role in each of the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. But why Mary, Bishop Amos wondered.
“From the Scriptures we know that at some point in her life she was terribly ill. The Bible said she was possessed by seven devils, the biblical number of completeness: ultimate goodness or ultimate evil — her condition was as bad as it could be.”
Then she met Jesus, who healed her. “This woman of such unimaginable despair became one of the most devoted followers of Jesus. Jesus once said that the person who has been forgiven much will love much. The description certainly fits Mary Magdalene well,” the bishop said.
As Jesus was dying on Good Friday, the apostle John and three women remained with him at the foot of the cross, one was Mary Magdalene.
Bishop Amos imagined that this devoted disciple probably didn’t sleep well that night, the images of what she had witnessed playing over and over in her mind.
The Sabbath day was supposed to be a day of rest, but Mary was restless. She was counting off the hours until she could make her way to the tomb. And so on the first day of the week she went to the tomb, early.
“You know the rest of story: empty tomb, runs to tell Peter and John, she continues weeping outside the tomb, fails to recognize Jesus, until he calls her name – ‘Mary.’”
Consider why Mary was at the tomb, the bishop said. “Not because she expected to see her resurrected Lord, but because she wanted to bring a last offering of love to his broken body.”
When Jesus called her by name, Mary turned around. “She had been facing the wrong direction, looking into the empty tomb with her back to the Risen Lord. When she turned around, she was no longer looking to the past, but to the future and what will be,” the bishop said.
“She is the first disciple to see the Risen Lord. She becomes an example to us of what should happen in every disciple.”
The bishop reminded the congregation that soon the Elect would be called by name, promising to reject Satan and all of his empty promises. And the rest, as they renewed their baptismal promises, would remember being called by name.
“The soon-to-be neophytes and we will profess our faith in the Father, creator of all; Lord Jesus, crucified and risen; the Holy Spirit of God; the holy, Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body.”
In professing our faith, we don’t have to run from God any more. “Jesus comes back, not in condemnation, not in judgment, but in grace and peace. We who have died to our sins don’t have to live in guilt any more.”
Bishop Amos expressed gladness that the church decided to tell the story of Mary Magdalene. “She is hopefully our story as well … Like Mary, we sometimes come to the tomb not out of faith, not expecting anything. Sometimes we experience the unbelievable. Christ was there all the time; we were just looking in the wrong direction.
“The 40 days of Lent are over; let us celebrate these 50 days of Easter.”