In 2015, FutureChurch launched the Mary of Magdala Easter Gospel Restoration Project working with Catholics around the world to ensure that the full story of Mary of Magala’s witness to the Resurrection and commission by Jesus to “go and tell” is heard on Easter Sunday.
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., reminds us that for centuries, Mary Magdalene has been portrayed within the Christian faith as a former prostitute who repented her sins and became one of Jesus’ most dedicated followers. But, “in fact, Mary of Magdala was one of Jesus’ most influential apostles—and she was not a prostitute,” said Sr. Johnson. “Mary kept vigil at the cross throughout Jesus’ crucifixion, discovered the empty tomb after Jesus’ resurrection, and was then commissioned to ‘go and tell’ the good news.”
In Canada the bishops include all of John 20:1-18, but in the United States and elsewhere Catholics hear only part of the story, John 20: 1-9. Thus, the telling of Mary of Magdala’s role as a primary witness to the Resurrection slips from view.
When reading the two versions side by side it is easy to see how dramatically the trajectory of the story changes when all of John 20:1-18 is proclaimed. In the shortened version, the focus is on Simon Peter and their lack of understanding. But in the longer version, we learn that the male disciples went home while Mary of Magdala stayed and continued to search for Jesus. In doing so, she finds him, recognizes him as the risen Christ and is commissioned to go and tell the others. The inspiring story of Mary of Magdala’s witness, commission and leadership role is proclaimed.