‘Mary Magdalen’ was preached by Ralph Mallinson on 22nd July at St John with St Mark, Bury. It’s based on John 20: 1-2, 11-18.
We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. We reflect today and the next 4 weeks on some Easter people and what we might take away from them. No prizes for guessing who today is.
The main reason for remembering Mary Magdalen is her presence in the garden where Our Lord was buried; her recognition at last of the risen Jesus and her errand to tell the others of what had happened. Mary Magdalen, the apostle to the apostles and 1st witness to the Resurrection.
In Luke 8.2 Mary is described as having 7 demons cast out of her. She is later mentioned as part of the group of women who travelled with and ministered to Our Lord; she stood with Mary his mother and others at the foot of the Cross.
That morning, having gone to do for his body what had to be done – she comes over as so lonely, so helpless, so bereft. She had loved greatly but now the object of her love was gone. What could she do, where could she turn in her sorrow and grief?
It’s not surprising if the 7 demons were coming back to her. We clearly cannot tell what they were, but they were real enough to Mary. And at the graveside she couldn’t even do what she had come to do.
No wonder, as St. John so poignantly tells us, she felt empty, lost, sorrowful. No wonder she wept and no wonder she couldn’t at first recognise him whom she supposed to be gardener.
Apostle to the Apostles
And then – and then: after he had called her by name she recognised the Lord for who he was. No wonder she wanted to cling to him so tight that the demons and the darkness wouldn’t ever come back again. That morning she saw her Lord as more beautiful, more powerful, more lovely, than she had ever seen him before.
And there WAS work for her to do. Not the work she had come expecting to take on, the embalming, the proper preparation of the body for burial, BUT a work infinitely more positive, a message for that frightened woman to give to some frightened men back in the city centre: “I have seen the Lord, he is ascending to the Father”. So no wonder she is known as the Apostle to the Apostles.
What do we learn?
And we are here today. We are living today with the results and consequences of those great and strange words uttered first by Mary Magdalen on Easter morning.
So what to take from Mary Magdalen?
- An ability to recognise Our Lord under the most unlikely and improbable circumstances;
- Her deep and real love for Jesus and her awareness of his healing love and power – and a prayer that something of that may flow into me;
- The knowledge, which was her knowledge, that Jesus loves me with an infinite love and calls me, as he called her, by my name. I’m not a cipher or a number on a tax return. I’m a person, a unique individual, who is:
- created from love;
- created of love;
- and created for love, as Mary Magdalen knew herself to be.
And I take a prayer for St. Mary Magdalen’s Day: Sweet is your friendship, Saviour Jesus Christ; Mary you accepted, Mary you drew to the foot of the Cross, Mary you met in the garden, Mary you called by name.
Grant us a like redemption.