Despite the many rumours surrounding her past – primarily that she was a prostitute – there is no Biblical evidence to show exactly what had happened to Mary before she met Jesus. All we are told is during Jesus’ ministry ‘Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven spirits had come out’ travelled with Him (Luke 8:2). This could mean anything from mental illness, to sexual sin, to physical pain. What’s important is that she was healed, and followed Jesus to give back the grace that had been given to her.
Her utter devotion to the Lord is evident through her persistence in waiting for Him. We’re told that she ‘came early to the tomb, while it was still dark’ (John 20:1). Already we see her commitment to her Lord and Saviour, but later he servant heart is shown even more clearly when she says to the man she presumes to be the gardener: ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him’ (John 20:15). The distance she may have to travel or physical challenge of retrieving the body doesn’t cross her mind: in that instance she knows instinctively that she would do anything for Jesus.
Upon His resurrection, Jesus could have appeared to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Yet He chose Mary to be the first person to see Him in His glorified state. Space and time are nothing to God: it’s not merely a coincidence that He appeared to who He did, when He did! This was perhaps the ultimate reflection of His radical respect for, and relationship with, women.
She was so excited that she could not contain her enthusiasm, and rushed to bring the Good News to the disciples. Bernard of Clairvaux called her ‘the apostle to the apostles’. She was the mediator between Christ and His disciples: she was the first to believe that He had fulfilled His promise, and she was the one to proclaim that fulfilment to the others. Without a shadow of a doubt she proclaimed ‘I have seen the Lord’ (John 20:18).
Mary Magdalene recognised that once she had encountered the Lord her life was no longer her own. She dedicated every moment to serving Him while He was alive, and declaring the joy brought by the time spent with Him once He was gone. She gave everything she had and everything she was to the Lord, echoing His mother Mary’s ‘Yes’ to God’s will.
Every Easter, in fact in every mass, we witness the same resurrection that Mary did – and yet our enthusiasm isn’t always as evident or unstoppable. We have received the same Good News, the same freedom, and the same redemption… and the only sufficient reaction is one of sheer passion, joy and unbridled desire to spread the word!
As people who have encountered the Lord we, too, have a duty to share His love with others. Of course, we are called to share the gospel with those who haven’t heard it, but we are also called to minister to fellow Christians. Just as Mary ministered to those who would then take Christ’s message to the nations, we must support each other in our ministries and anoint each other to carry the news of Christ’s resurrection to the world.