Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her.John 20:18
My Patron and Namesake
St. Mary Magdalene resonates with me in so many ways. When I was really little, I learned during a Palm Sunday Mass that I was named after her. From that point on, I considered her my patron Saint and I’ve always felt connected to her. As I learned more and more about her, I found that we have a lot in common.
As I grew up, I felt myself emulating her and I’ve seen her intercede for me. It’s hard to be a Catholic young adult because following Jesus isn’t the “cool” thing to do. I did my best to live my faith always, despite the chastisement that I endured. St. Mary Magdalene is the patron Saint of people ridiculed for their piety, and I felt her embracing me and praying for me during those times. Looking back on how I’ve grown in my faith, I can see how St. Mary Magdalene guided me closer to Christ. Through the mistakes and sins that separated me from the Lord, she inspired me to run back to him with my whole heart. She taught me how to stay by his side and follow him wherever he led me.
Her Past Doesn’t Define Her
I feel like we all have bad memories that stick with us. Sometimes you have a poor experience with something, or someone makes a negative comment that you can’t forget about. As pesky as these memories are, they form us. We learn to grow, to be better, to prove people wrong.
When I was in 6th grade, my teacher randomly assigned a Saint to everyone in my class to read about and write a paper about. I asked a friend which Saint she was writing about, and when she said it was St. Mary Magdalene, I excitedly shared that I was named after her and I loved her. My friend replied in a sour tone of voice, “She had seven demons taken out of her.” That comment killed my joy and left me feeling defeated. I knew that my patron Saint was more than that, but at the time, I couldn’t say a word.
While St. Mary Magdalene probably wasn’t a prostitute (contrary to popular belief,) it’s true that seven demons tormented her. In Luke 8:2, Jesus removed them, and Mary Magdalene surrendered her life to Christ. We know that where sin abounds, grace abounds more, so this exorcism allowed for Mary Magdalene’s radical conversion. One of the beautiful, relatable facets of St. Mary Magdalene is that her past doesn’t define her. She can’t be reduced to the woman who had seven demons removed from her. That’s only one part of her, and she became so much more than that. Of course that’s part of her story and it’s something that she can’t change, but she surrendered it to Jesus and let him work in it. She allowed him to change her life, and she lived the rest of it as his disciple.
Following Christ to the Cross and the Resurrection
Her story doesn’t end with her exorcism. As a disciple, Mary Magdalene evangelized to the women that she encountered. When she told them what Jesus had done for her and how he changed her life, they became followers as well. Mary Magdalene followed Jesus so closely during his earthly ministry, sometimes closer than the Twelve Apostles. When almost all of them fled during the Passion, Mary Magdalene never left him. Along with the Blessed Mother and John, she stayed beneath Jesus on his Cross until he breathed his last.
Because Mary Magdalene was so devoted to Jesus, he allowed her to be the first to find the empty tomb. Her fear and sadness at the thought of her missing Lord quickly turned into joy when he revealed himself to her. When the risen Jesus gently called her name, she knew it was him. St. Mary Magdalene is sometimes called “the Apostle to the Apostles,” because she told them the good news of the Resurrection.
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From Brokenness to Holiness
If I could go back in time to 6th grade, I wouldn’t let myself feel defeated when all my friend could say about St. Mary Magdalene was her demons. I’d ask her to consider how Jesus worked in her life and led her to him. I’d say, “It was so good that Jesus encountered her in her brokenness and called her to holiness.” I’d tell her that although she was far from the Lord in her past, she had changed so much when Jesus touched her heart. She became so close to Jesus that she wouldn’t leave his side during his Passion. She stayed at the foot of his Cross when he suffered and died, and was the first to learn of the Resurrection and to rejoice in the risen Lord.
Jesus longs to enter into our brokenness as he did for St. Mary Magdalene. In our imperfections and our humanity, we’re never too lost for him. When we allow Jesus to work in and through us like St. Mary Magdalene did, we’ll experience a great change of heart in ourselves and in those around us.
My friend Isabella from Bearing Good Fruit compares the empty tomb to St. Mary Magdalene’s past. She beautifully writes, “Dwelling on these losses prevents us from seeing how God has already redeemed them – he’s already at work designing a better relationship for you, he’s already forgiven your past mistakes, and he’s already set a place for your loved ones in Heaven.” While she weeps for the Lord and dwells in her brokenness, Jesus comes to her, comforts her, and helps her to let go.
When Jesus touches our lives, it’s impossible to keep it to ourselves. St. Mary Magdalene evangelized by telling other women about Jesus, but also by living radically for him. She stayed so close to Jesus that she could touch the wood of the Cross that Jesus saved her by, and embraced the Resurrected Christ who conquered death forever. On her feast day today, ask her to guide you to follow Jesus as closely as she did.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
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