“I was one way… and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.”
With just those lines, Mary Magdalene testifies to the transformation that comes with encountering Jesus. This is what is true evangelist or evangelizer does, giving an answer, to everyone who asks, the reason for your hope (1st Peter 3:15 NIV). “Christ has come into the world, come and see what he has done for me–– for I was one way and now I am completely different”
The Gospels inform us that St. Mary Magdalene had 7 demons expelled from. Interestingly, they don’t explicitly say anything about her being a prostitute. That comes about with equating her with the woman caught in adultery, and/or with the repentant woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears (and with that detail, some believe that she may have been Mary of Bethany who is also recorded to have done the same). Whatever the case, it seems to me that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that she may have been a prostitute. The 7 demons can be spiritually symbolic of the 7 deadly sins as well. Each of them may have been a of one of those sins, including lust. Also, it may be asked how not just one, but seven demons came to afflict her. It seems to me that they may have been invited by her actions. Exorcists talk about how mortal sins open the door to demonic influences. So, if demons attach to sinful activity and persons who engage in it, it’s possible that Mary Magdalene was possessed sevenfold because of her being a prostitute. But that was before she met Jesus.
In the new, wonderfully produced and beautifully acted multi-season show on the life of Jesus (what a genius idea), The Chosen, we are introduced to Mary Magdalene in the 1st episode. People like Peter, his wife, and his brother Andrew, as well as the pesky taxman, Matthew, as well as Nicodemus and his wife along with a few other characters show up in subplots of the 1st episode, but really, it’s Mary Magdalene’s episode.
The show starts off kind of slow and the viewer may be wondering, where is Jesus? He does eventually show up in episode 1, but in the meantime we learn the back stories of several characters, including most especially, St. Mary Magdalene. She is a frightened young girl whose father reassures her with a verse from Isaiah: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
We see her later, and for most of the episode, in her brokenness and in the throes of demonic possession. The verse gives her comfort but only for so long, until she starts losing hope because her situation is not getting any better.
In one scene, Nicodemus, the Pharisees, visiting from Jerusalem, is called upon to exorcise the demons from Mary who is known as Lilith at that point of her life. He is unsuccessful and flees from the site in terror. The exorcism scenes are not spectacularly frightening, but they give you an idea of what it must have been like. No one can really help the poor woman, and Nicodemus acknowledges that only God himself can cast out the demons from her…
“Mary!” Jesus calls her one evening, foreshadowing how he will call her on the morning of the resurrection. She is completely astonished that someone would call her by that name—- no one would know it at that point except, just maybe, her Creator. It’s such a beautiful scene when Jesus speaks those very words from Isaiah 43. He comes for his lost sheep, and to heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
St. Mary Magdalene would never forget that Pictureencounter with her Redeemer. She is completely new person. Subsequently, in episode 2, Nicodemus sees her somewhere, nearly unrecognizable and completely restored and asks her what happened. Her answer is the scene above. She gives witness to the fact that the King of Israel has come into the world and the kingdom of God is at hand. He has come to heal and restore his people. I can’t help but think how powerful it must have been for people to have known her before Jesus and after Jesus.
What I especially love about St. Mary Magdalene is her great love for Christ Jesus as attested to by the readings selected for her feast day. Can it be that it was because of her great love that Jesus chose to appear to her and send her off to be the “apostle to the Apostles,” to witness to his resurrection? How much more beautiful if she was actually a prostitute. Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much, as Jesus says of the woman in Luke 7:45. I don’t think it is kind of disservice to her by saying that she had a sinful past. It seems probable to me to think so. I think it makes her even more of a great Saint and more relatable, a good example for all of us sinners, redeemed. Indeed, there is hope for everyone. After All, In the Words Attributed to St. Augustine,”Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” (Words put on the lips of a character in an Oscar Wilde play – I was curious).
St. Mary Magdalene, help us to be witnesses of the great love we have been shown: the love of the Resurrected Jesus, stronger than death. Pray for us that we may love as you do and be transformed into living images of him. And that we might boldly testify that “”I was one way… and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.” In the name of The God of Jacob, Our Redeemer who calls us by name.