Feast of Mary Magdalene / La Fiesta de María Magdalena

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the Apostles. As St. John Paul II shared, she is “the first eyewitness of the Risen Christ.” On the first day of the week, in the early morning, Mary went to the tomb, likely to mourn. This detail of the early morning hints to me that Mary had been thinking about Jesus all night. Visiting his tomb was her first priority of the day. What she encountered shocked her. 

As she wept, she bent over into the tomb. And encountered two angels in white “sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been” (Jn 20:12). The angels spoke to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” 

The angels and their location is significant. Angels flanking a structure in the Old Testament indicated a border, or separation, between Man and the Divine. For example, in Genesis, the cherubim guarded the way to the tree of Life after the fall of Adam (see Gn 3:24). Beginning in Exodus 25, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God again began to dwell among his people Israel, was flanked on the exterior with two cherubim: “Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the cover” of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:18). 

Look closely at today’s Gospel, and you’ll see that the angels are not on guard outside the tomb as they were when they marked the borders of the Garden and the Ark of the Covenant. They are not marking a border at all. Instead, today’s angels are heralds for the resurrected Lord. 

The Incarnation united the very presence of God with humanity. Situated inside the tomb, flanking the place where the Incarnation was actually laid, these angels seem to beckon Mary into God’s presence. 

The angels did not flank a border; they flanked a presence – the presence of the Lord. In her grief, Mary did not yet understand that Jesus had risen, which is why she asked Jesus himself, “Where have you taken my Lord?” 

Yet as he spoke her name, Mary recognized the resurrected Jesus. I like to imagine that Mary greeted Jesus with a huge bear hug since he tells her “Stop holding on to me.” That Easter morning, Mary was the first one to witness that the communion between Man and Divine was restored through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and that humanity was now able to participate in salvation.   

Mary’s testimony to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” inspired the disciples to run to the tomb to see for themselves. Mary is a brave and inspirational leader in our Church. She was steadfast in her faith in Jesus even in times of sorrow and confusion. She recognized the angels and was not afraid to question them. She was the first to proclaim the resurrection to others with zeal. It’s fitting then that today we honor Mary Magdalene with a feast that is equivalent to the way in which we honor the Apostles, because she was the apostle to the Apostles.  

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Hoy celebramos la fiesta de Santa María Magdalena, la apóstol de los Apóstoles. Como compartió San Juan Pablo II, ella es “la primera testigo ocular del Cristo Resucitado”. El primer día de la semana, de madrugada, María fue al sepulcro, dispuesta a llorar. Este detalle de la madrugada me insinúa que María había estado pensando en Jesús toda la noche. Visitar su tumba era su primera prioridad del día. Lo que encontró la sorprendió.

Mientras lloraba, se inclinó sobre la tumba. Y se encontró con dos ángeles vestidos de blanco “sentados allí, uno a la cabeza y otro a los pies donde había estado el Cuerpo de Jesús” (Jn 20,12). Los ángeles le dijeron: Mujer, ¿por qué lloras?

Los ángeles y su ubicación son significativos. Los ángeles que estaban al lado de una estructura en el Antiguo Testamento indicaban una frontera o separación entre el Hombre y lo Divino. Por ejemplo, en Génesis, los querubines guardaban el camino hacia el árbol de la Vida después de la caída de Adán (ver Gn 3,24). A partir del Éxodo 25, el Arca de la Alianza, el lugar donde Dios nuevamente comenzó a morar entre su pueblo Israel, dos querubines estaban al exterior: “Haz dos querubines de oro batido para los dos extremos de la cubierta” del Arca de la Alianza (Ex 25,18).

Fíjate bien en el Evangelio de hoy y verás que los ángeles no están de guardia fuera de la tumba como lo estaban cuando marcaron los límites del Jardín y el Arca de la Alianza. No están marcando una frontera en absoluto. En cambio, los ángeles de hoy son heraldos del Señor resucitado.

La Encarnación unió la presencia misma de Dios con la humanidad. Situados dentro de la tumba, presentes en el lugar donde se colocó la Encarnación, estos ángeles parecen invitar a María a la presencia de Dios.

Los ángeles no crearon una frontera; crearon una presencia: la presencia del Señor. En su dolor, María aún no comprendía que Jesús había resucitado, por lo que le preguntó al mismo Jesús: “¿A dónde has llevado a mi Señor?”.

Sin embargo, cuando pronunció su nombre, María reconoció al Jesús resucitado. Me gusta imaginar que María saludó a Jesús con un abrazo fuerte ya que él le dice “Deja de aferrarte a mí”. Esa mañana de Pascua, María fue la primera testigo de que la comunión entre el Hombre y lo Divino se restablecía a través de la pasión, muerte y resurrección de Jesús, y que la humanidad ahora podía participar en la salvación.

El testimonio de María a los discípulos, “He visto al Señor”, inspiró a los discípulos a correr a la tumba para ver por sí mismos. María es una líder valiente e inspiradora en nuestra Iglesia. Ella fue firme en su fe en Jesús incluso en tiempos de dolor y confusión. Reconoció a los ángeles y no tuvo miedo de interrogarlos. Ella fue la primera en anunciar la resurrección a los demás con celo. Es apropiado entonces que hoy honremos a María Magdalena con una fiesta que es equivalente a la forma en que honramos a los Apóstoles, porque ella fue la apóstol de los Apóstoles.

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

Feature Image Credit: Cristina Gottardi, unsplash.com/photos/-QTaNuv0Bzk

But if Salt Loses its Taste

I have a chalk wall in my kitchen, and each time that today’s Gospel about being salt of the earth and light of the world appears in our lectionary, I draw a salt shaker and a lightbulb on that wall with the words, “Be salt. Be light.” You can probably buy little signs like that on Pinterest as a reminder of what Jesus calls us to be, but family is subject to my primary-school caliber sketching! 

Matthew positions this passage immediately after Jesus gives the beatitudes to the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount. Through the beatitudes, Jesus shares that we are blessed in a myriad of situations in our lives: for being poor in spirit; in our mourning; in meekness; in hunger; in showing mercy; keeping a pure heart; being peacemakers; and even in persecution. In each beatitude, Jesus confers a corresponding blessing. (See Mt 5:3-10). 

The blessings named in the beatitudes give us the graces to be salt of the earth and light of the world, as we hear in today’s Gospel, so that others may “see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

But today’s Gospel also carries a cautionary word. Jesus warns: “But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It’s no longer good for anything” (Mt 5:13).  

These sentences speak to my heart of burnout. Life’s situations, including those named in the beatitudes can challenge us. Even working within our vocation can be difficult. If you, like me, are a busy worker bee, you might be tempted to press on working and working without taking the time in prayer, in the Sacraments, and in fellowship, to spend time with the Lord. 

Do you have a tendency to work yourself into burnout? I think a lot of us do. Just think of how often you see someone and exchange hellos and then ask, “How are you?” How frequently does the other person respond, “Good. Busy. But good.” Listen closely, and I think you’ll find that “good-busy-good” is a prevailing paradigm in lexicon of polite dialog.

If good is always busy and busy is always good, can you be actually salt of the earth and light of the world? I cannot.   

I was speaking with a friend in ministry recently about her work, and she shared that she finds herself putting off exercise and going to her weekly Bible study with regularity in order to make more time for work – good work for the Church that ideally will build up the kingdom – but nonetheless work. I could relate to my friend in this struggle because I do the same thing. 

However, if we are to be salt of the earth, we have to remember not to sacrifice being a disciple: spending time with the Lord; taking care of our primary vocation before filling our schedules with good, but perhaps unnecessary busy work. 

Summertime often brings with it a little vacation. This space in our calendars may also allow in the temptation to over-fill the space with more work. Yet, I encourage you to consider how you might re-gain or preserve being salt and light in the coming weeks. Leave the space in the calendar for sitting with the Lord. In this way, His glory may shine through you.

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

Feature Image Credit: Sarah Chai, www.pexels.com/photo/woman-pitting-salt-for-bath-in-glass-jar-7263026/

Turning our Attention to Jesus

I recently read an essay by Simone Weil about the relationship between academic study and our love of God. She wrote the essay in the early 20th century to encourage eighth graders in their studies. Weil promotes the concept of attention in her essay. Namely, that both academic studies and prayer require our attention. While we are tempted, and indeed rewarded, for measuring academic success by grades or other external factors, Weil argues that the quality of attention matters more, both in academics and in our relationship with God. 

Today’s Gospel brings to mind this idea of how we give our attention and how we measure the fruitfulness of that attention. Jesus has just fed the 5000 by multiplying the loaves and fishes. After working this miracle, his disciples retreat across the sea to Capernaum and encounter Jesus walking on the water three or four miles from shore (Jn 6:19).

While we can’t tell from Scripture, the crowds might have witnessed this scene since they knew where to find Jesus even though they knew that he did not initially leave the shore with the disciples (Jn 6:22). The crowd followed Jesus to Capernaum.

John tells us that these people were “seeking Jesus” (Jn. 6:24). They were giving Jesus their attention. But much like our efforts today, the crowd’s efforts were flawed. Jesus told the crowds that they were seeking him “not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (Jn 6:27). Jesus admonishes the crowds not to labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.   

The crowd is so relatable. They seek Jesus, but for a reward or a particular result. How often do we do this too? We pray for the resolution of a crisis. We pray for our families. We even pray for sports games and parking spots! But how often do we pray simply to sit at his feet and give Jesus our attention? 

In Weil’s essay, she reminds us that when we focus our attention on grasping truth, we “acquire a greater aptitude for grasping it, even if the effort produces no visible fruit.” Prayer is a lot like this. Whenever we turn our attention to God, we grow in relationship with him. When we simply give God our attention, what we find is that his attention is fixed squarely on us. So let’s figuratively follow Jesus across the sea to Capernaum today. But let’s follow him there to give him our attention and to spend time simply being in prayer with our Lord.

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

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Memorial of St. Blaise: There’s a Saint for Everyone and Everything

Today is the Memorial of St. Blaise. St. Blaise was the Bishop of Sebastia in Armenia, which is a city located midway between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Blaise lived during the early fourth century, and while Christianity was tolerated in Armenia, he and other Christians suffered tremendous persecution.

Under threat of death, Blaise was forced from his episcopal seat into hiding and solitude in the wilderness. When he was eventually discovered praying in his cave, he was hauled off to prison. As the story goes, while Blaise was in prison a mother and her son visited him. The child had a fish bone lodged in his throat, but at Blaise’s command, the child was able to expel the bone and received healing. 

Blaise was eventually challenged by the local Roman governor to renounce Christianity and faith in Jesus. When he refused, he was tortured, hung from a tree, and eventually beheaded. Some of the lore surrounding St. Blaise is that he was tortured and flayed with the pins from a wool comb, which as it sounds, is a special comb used on animal wool as it is prepared for use in fabrics. 

As a Christian devotion, Blaise embodied the verse, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Blaise died for his faith in Jesus and gave witness to those whom he served as bishop. In this way, we honor his sacrifice today. 

As a particular devotion, today we honor and remember Blaise as patron for those suffering from illnesses of the throat and the patron of wool combers. No ailment is too small for a particular intercessor. No profession is too specific for a particular intercessor. 

Our Church has a patron, intercessor or devotional for practically every aspect of life. The abundance of intercessors should remind us that all aspects of our lives should be prayed over and oriented toward sanctification. Think of an aspect of your life that makes you unique: your profession, interests, appearance, or geography. There’s a particular intercessor for you. Take some time today to find out who a specific intercessor may be for your life.

Today especially though, let us also pray for those who are being persecuted for their Christian faith, for those suffering from throat ailments, and for those who still comb sheep. St. Blaise, pray for us!

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

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A Resolution to Make Haste Slowly

Happy New Year! By now, you have likely considered a new year’s resolution and maybe even tried a few.  If I’m honest, I have a long history of falling headfirst off the new year’s resolution wagon by about January 2nd.  

I tend not to follow through on new year’s resolutions because my resolutions are usually completely arbitrary and decided hastily at about 11:00pm on December 31st. Instead of being intentional about what I should do each year, I tend to toss around ideas, both noble and not-so-noble, about what I could do:  Keto diet! Volunteer for the PTA. Organize my closet. The list of good ideas goes on and on.  

Unfortunately, an arbitrary resolution, even a decision to do something good, is not necessarily the right resolution. So if you haven’t already, I propose that we re-examine our resolutions and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on what we should resolve to do this year. To this end, I’d like to invite you to take a walk with one of my favorite saints today: St. Katharine Drexel. Katharine’s life provides a great guide for discerning resolutions, and really, any decision in your life.

Katharine was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family and had the financial means and influence to do almost anything she wanted. But she did not take action arbitrarily. People around her urged her to do all kinds of good things:  get married; use her fortune for philanthropies; become a cloistered nun; or live a single life in service to the poor. However, Katharine’s spiritual director urged her to “festina lente” – make haste slowly. Festina lente – I find these words encouraging in the new year. Take time to choose the good to which God calls you.   

Always drawn to serve the poor, in 1887, Katharine attended a private audience with Pope Leo XIII and urged him to send missionary priests to the United States to Native Americans.  He responded, “Why not my child, yourself become a missionary?” This interaction helped to lead Katharine to her vocation. But Katharine made haste slowly. It was not until four years later, in 1891, that she became a missionary and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She subsequently spent her life supporting missions and schools throughout the United States. In all, she and her sisters established 145 missions, 50 schools for African Americans, and 12 schools for Native Americans. Some described her as an “apostle to the poor.”

Katharine took time to discern how God wanted her to live out her vocation. What would have happened if Katharine had jumped at all of the ideas that she could have done, instead of truly discerning what God asked of her?     

Meditating on Katharine Drexel clarifies my new year’s resolution, or at least my approach to it. My resolution is a prayer to festina lente – to make haste slowly – to avoid that instinct to accomplish all the things I could do, and instead, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that reveal the things I should strive to accomplish.  

2022 is still new, and as the adage goes, it takes 21 days to form a habit. St. Katharine Drexel, perfected her vocation of missionary service through over fifty years of active ministry.  I’m going to need more than 21 days and a lot more practice to festina lenta. Did you plunge headfirst into an arbitrary resolution or are you still looking for that perfect resolution? If so, perhaps you could make haste slowly with me.

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

Feature Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/wine-glasses-toast-holiday-6688901/

Walking With Zechariah Through His Personal Advent

We are two days away from Christmas. Are you getting antsy for the arrival of Jesus, for visits with family and opening presents? I am, but I’m trying to slow down and savor this liturgical season. 

Today’s Gospel is a bit of a nudge to slow down. We’re reminded that John the Baptist came before Jesus and taught us to prepare the way of the Lord. It’s fitting then that we see the preparation of John’s father, Zechariah, in Luke’s Gospel today. 

As you may remember, Zechariah prayed for his wife, Elizabeth, to have a child. While he was in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son and that he would be called John (Lk 1:13). Zechariah, however, did not believe Gabriel or the promises that the angel relayed to him. Because of this disbelief, Gabriel silenced Zechariah (Lk 1:20).

In a way, Gabriel took Zechariah’s speech but gave him a personal Advent – a season of waiting and expectation. We receive the fruit of Zechariah’s advent today. Upon John’s birth, he is presented in the temple on the eighth day according to Jewish tradition. At that time, he was also named. 

When questioned about why Elizabeth intended to name their son John, Zechariah puts all questions to rest by an act of obedience. As the Angel Gabriel proclaimed that the child would be called John, Zechariah wrote, “His name is John” (Lk 1:63) on a tablet for all to see. 

With this act of obedience, Zechariah’s speech is restored and we receive the fruit of his quiet waiting – his offering of praise – “he spoke blessing God” (Lk 1:64). 

Has your Advent been a time of waiting and expectation? Have you been a little quiet this season? Spend some time with Zechariah today and consider how even in the bustle of Christmas preparations you might prepare your heart, mind, and lips to receive Jesus on Christmas so that we may all emerge from this quiet season speaking “blessing to God” (Lk 1:64).

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

Feature Image Credit: Angie Menes, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/20783-esperando-venida-senor

Perfect Justice and Perfect Mercy

The National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. is the largest church in the western hemisphere. The Byzantine structure rises high above the DC skyline, which is punctuated by famous buildings like the Washington Monument and the US Capitol. Each day, tour buses pull into the circular drive in front of the Shrine and unload droves of pilgrims to the steps of “Mary’s House” as locals call it.

Upon entering the cavernous basilica, any pilgrim’s eye will be drawn upward to a massive mosaic of Jesus that spans from the back wall of the Basilica onto the domed ceiling above the altar. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Jesus’s face is not symmetrical. One side of his gaze seems piercing, while the other is more relaxed. 

This asymmetry is intentional and communicates the genius of our Lord’s perfect justice and perfect mercy. We get a glimpse of this perfect justice and mercy in today’s Gospel from John 2:13-22 as well.

Today we read about the first of Jesus’ four visits to Jerusalem recorded in John’s Gospel. In the context of the Gospel, we read earlier in this chapter about Jesus’ first miracle, which was turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. This miracle revealed Jesus’s identity but also his love for his mother since it was his mother who prompted the miracle (Jn 2:3-5). This miracle also reveals Jesus’s care for those around him. Jesus is kind, generous, and merciful. Perhaps his countenance was relaxed. 

Yet in this same chapter, we read that Jesus formed a whip out of cords and drove merchants and money changers out of the temple area and flipped over tables (Jn 2:15). This must have been a fierce sight to behold. But isn’t this scene a revelation of Jesus’s perfect justice and perfect mercy? Justice required that Jesus not allow anyone to defile his Father’s house. Mercy required it, too.

In this reading, Jesus’ disciples recalled the words of Scripture “Zeal for your house will consume me,” referencing Psalm 68:10. John is signaling that Jesus will allow himself to be consumed. Out of love for us, he paid the price of our sin through his crucifixion, and he offers us salvation. This is the embodiment of perfect justice and perfect mercy.  

How have you felt Jesus’s justice and mercy in your own life? Sometimes these experiences may be peaceful and miraculous like the Wedding at Cana. At other times, they may be uncomfortable, like the correction and rebuke at the temple. But with focus on Jesus’ with outstretched arms and his gaze from above, we can strive to better conform our lives to his.     

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We welcome new author, Elizabeth Tomlin!

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