Summary: When Mary Magdalene encountered Christ, it transformed her from a sinner to a saint. Are we willing to allow God to do the same with us?
TAS and WSSM 22-07-2011
Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene.
She has a special place in the history of the church as Mary Magdalene is honored as one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus, and received a special commission from him to tell the Apostles of his resurrection as we read in our Gospel reading today
It is for that reason that in Orthodox and Catholic tradition she is referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles”
I would today like to look at her in the light of one verse from the New Testament reading from 2 Cor 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
When Mary met Jesus she was a new woman.
But what was the old Mary like?
We first come across Mary Magdalene as the woman out of whom Jesus drove seven demons (Lk 8:1-3)
St Luke records this as follows:
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out—and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.(Lk 8:1-3)
She was obviously well off and supported Jesus in his ministry
But it was only at the end of the sixth century that it was first suggested that she was a prostitute
It was in Pope Gregory the Great’s homily on Luke’s gospel dated 14 September 591 that he said this about Mary
"She, whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark.
And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?
... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts."(homily XXXIII)
Anyone know what unguent is?
An “unguent” is a semi solid paste – a bit like ointment!
Whether or not she really was a prostitute, we don’t know but we do know that when she met Jesus her life was changed forever.
Jesus has that effect on you.
She is called Mary Magdalene to distinguish her from the other three Marys mentioned in the Gospel, possibly even four.
i) Mary the mother of Jesus,
ii) Mary the mother of James and Joses and
iii) Mary Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee
And possibly she is also distinguished from Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus’s sister – though some scholars think Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are one and the same
She is Mary from the village of Magdala, which means in Aramaic : “a tower”
And what a “tower of strength” she was to the early Christian Community
She is the first to meet the risen Lord – and it was this meeting that transformed her from a frightened woman to a tower of strength.
Uniquely she is a witness to Jesus death, burial and the Empty tomb
It is said of Mary:
“Mary’s role as a witness is unusual because women at that time were not considered credible witnesses in legal proceedings
Because of this, and because of extra-biblical traditions about her subsequent missionary activity in spreading the Gospel she is known by the title, "Equal of the Apostles”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene)
When Mary met Jesus, she was transformed
He has that effect on your life if you allow Him to
Story: A couple of Sundays ago (08-07-2012), I was back in Oxford and went to the Church that Maddy and I used to attend when I was living in Oxford - a church called St Aldates.
I walked in and looked at the bookrack in the entrance.
I saw Simon Ponsonby’s new book “Loving Mercy” – but decided not to buy it - as I would never read it.
After all, I have so many books on my bookshelf that I have not read – so why buy a new one
As I went into the Church, who would I run into but Simon himself.
“ Have you got a copy of my new book?” he said “ It’s free for clergy”
“No” I replied and he vanished off to get me a copy.
He gave it to me at the end of the service – and I thought no more about it.
But for some reason that evening, I started to read Simon’s book – Loving Mercy.
It’s a book about how encountering Christ should transform us to care for others.
And in it, I found this fascinating story of Judson Cornwall, an American Pentecostal preacher who, after the war, was invited to speak at a renewal conference in Germany.