Artwork of Mary Magdalene throughout the ages served as an anchor for Father Michael as he walked us through the ups and downs of what this important figure might have meant to the early Church. She is mentioned in each Gospel and is often painted with a book, surrounded with items that indicate she was a woman of means.
“Afterward [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” (Luke 8:1-3)
This is just one of many verses where Mary Magdalene is named specifically. Father Michael said it is important to note here that she is first on the list and that this gives her a place of great prominence among the others mentioned. “Mary Magdalene is on par with the disciple Peter in terms of the respect she held with the community,” Father Michael said. “She made her choice to give up all she had to follow Jesus and his teachings. Mary Magdalene, and all of the Saints, set a good example for us—to use our time to go out of our way to help other people.”
As for those seven demons cast out of her, we cannot know what they were, but she made the choice to follow Jesus and was cleansed. She turned her life around and was able to live without shame or guilt. Jesus made things new for her, just like he can for all of us.
One particularly moving moment in Father Michael’s talk was when he read John 20:11-18 while we gazed upon Noli me tangere, 1514, an oil painting by Titian of this scene in the Gospel. It is in the collection of the National Gallery in London. “At this point the whole Church on earth was Mary Magdalene,” Father Michael said. “This is a painting of the Christian Church after the Resurrection.”
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.