The Very Reverend Todd Donatelli

The Feast of Mary Magdalene

Posted By Todd Donatelli on July 21, 2015

After that, 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. Luke 8:1-3

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Mt. 28:1

    There are many legends about Mary Magdalene. The notion she sold her body is nowhere to be found in the scriptures.  What is known comes from the above passages. She was a woman of some means whose financial support allowed Jesus and other disciples to travel as they did. She went to the cross when most fled. She showed up at the tomb when most were still behind locked doors for fear. All four biblical gospels attest to the last story. She is the first to encounter the Risen Christ. She is the first to proclaim the resurrection. The evangelists want us to know that.
    What were the seven demons? Some have wondered if today they would be diagnosed as some form of mental illness.  I find myself compelled to ponder a relationship of mental illness and enduring fidelity to Jesus. What part of illness is struggle and what part may allow those with diagnosis to see as others are not able? No sentimentalism here; more pondering life’s complexity.
    What is clear is her fidelity.  She was a tenaciously faithful companion during Jesus’ life. This friendship seems deep and greatly appreciated by Jesus. She chooses to love, ‘even to the end’.
What of her inability to recognize the Risen Christ? What does this offer to us? I find great comfort and companionship with Mary.  Despite years of friendship with Jesus she struggles to see this Risen One.  She thinks the Christ a gardener, someone whose appearance does not compel in her that which had recognized, which had eyes to see, Jesus so readily.  I find great comfort here as there are many times where I later realize I have missed the Risen One in my midst; many times where I struggle to see Presence, to see manifestation of the Sacred.  I seek to be faithful, seek to observe some basic practices, and time and again I fail to see what is present before me.
    I also find comfort in the cliché appropriate to her: she just kept showing up. Who God is, where and how we experience and encounter the Sacred is always expanding, shifting and like the wind blowing where it will. I will never fully comprehend, ‘the depth and breadth’ of God. Mary never did.  Yet she did show up.  She did come to the tomb not because she expected resurrection but to be present in death. She came to live out one more act of fidelity to her friend and companion.
    The Prophet Micah states, ‘What does the Lord require? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God’. It nowhere says always recognize God. Thank God.  What we can do is show up.  What we can do is stumble all over the place as we seek to recognize God. And like Mary, in showing up, find ourselves in the midst of Sacredness.