Mary Magdalene is a saint of pure love of God. Yet she is one of the most mischaracterized figures in the Bible. The impression that she was a prostitute grew around the 6th century. Unfortunately, there is no clear biblical evidence to justify this claim. The Church has since rejected it also.
Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9 hinted that Mary Magdalene is the one from whom the Lord drove out seven demons. Scripture didn’t say those demons were due to her loose life. Neither did it say she was a prostitute. Debates about this, called the “composite Magdalene,” aren’t the goal of our reflection. However, I thought it appropriate to highlight this point here as a prelude to our less academic, spiritual reflection.
The Gospels mention Mary Magdalene’s name over twelve times. This number is more than those of many of the apostles. Also, she was one of the very few whose loyalty to the Lord was unwavering. She faithfully followed the Lord from the time of her conversion to the Lord’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
Who Was Mary Magdalene?
In Mary Magdalene, the holy woman who was likely from Magdala, a little town in Galilea, we see a True Devotion to the Blessed Lord Jesus. She is a woman of pure love. She should be a model for many who hardly allow their love of God to flow like a river in everyday life. Her love for the Lord was incredible. She deserves her title as the apostolorum apostola (apostle of the apostles), a title that grew in the 12th century.
Also, Saint Thomas Aquinas made a compelling argument in defense of this title for Saint Mary Magdalene. She was the first evangelizer of the apostles after the resurrection. She declared to them the goods news of the resurrection as the Lord directed. In 2016, the title was popularized by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in a document (June 10, 2016). The Congregation decreed that Mary Magdalene’s feast be elevated to the status of that of the apostles. Thus, on her feast day (July 22), we celebrate this great saint in the same fashion as we commemorate the apostles. She deserves the title of the apostle of the apostles.
Learning from Mary Magdalene
There is much more to learn from the passion of this holy woman. She wasn’t afraid to publicly express her faith in Jesus Christ. Public rejection of the Lord after the crucifixion wouldn’t stop her either. This is a great lesson for us today as the faith seems unpopular in the mainstream. With two other women, she was present on the first day of the week at the tomb of Jesus to anoint the Lord. The Gospel of John mentioned her name as the only first witness to the resurrection. She was the only one who stayed outside the tomb on the first day of the resurrection week, weeping because she didn’t find the Lord’s body (Jn 20:1-18).
Such a love is a pointer to what the saints will call the mystical union. It is the love that goes beyond what is convenient and sees beyond the cross to witness the holiness shining from the cross. It is the love where the believer is so united with Christ that the only treasure of that believer, all that mattered, is Jesus Christ. “Jesus the Christ, dead or alive, is my Lord.” It is that love that has been so detached from self-centeredness that it is completely immersed in the Blessed Trinity’s intimate love.
The Song of Songs is a beautiful description of how a person in love with God longs for divine intimacy: “I sought him, but I did not find him. I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings, I will seek” (Song of Songs 3:1-4).