St. Mary Magdalene, Penitent 2018
Today the Holy Church commemorates a woman of whom little is known. Today we give thanks to God for the witness of Saint Mary Magdalene, the one whom Church history has labeled as “Penitent.” Although the sinful woman in today’s Gospel is unidentified, tradition has identified her as Mary Magdalene, the same Mary out of whom seven demons were cast, who was believed to be the sister of Mary and Lazarus, the one who would later be honored as “the apostle to the Apostles” for bringing them word of Christ’s Resurrection. But today we hear of her conversion, of her faith in the One “who even forgives sins.”
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.