Today, in honor of Mary Magdalene, something different. Because she was different.
A woman came up to Jesus. A woman not unlike Mary Magdalene, whom we celebrate today, a disciple whom Jesus loved. The Magdalene was not a prostitute or notable sinner; the confusion of the Marys and other women of the New Testament goes back a long way and reflects a tendency to not take any of them seriously. It’s the gendered version of the racist attitude of “they all look alike to me.” I think of this as social nearsightedness: they’re so far from my existence that I can’t see them clearly. All their distinctive features blur together, and I don’t care enough to sort them out, so they all look alike.
Mary Magdalene was not the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet, but rather one from whom Jesus had “cast out seven demons.” This is Bible-speak for: Mary had issues. We don’t know what those issues were, but she had certainly been a troubled soul.
So a woman came up to Jesus, a woman who, like Mary Mags, had issues but was a disciple whom Jesus loved, and who loved him in return. She came to Jesus because she’d had her own collection of personal demons and she knew him to be a healer, had felt that power within herself many times.
He took her face in his hands. “I’m sorry about your back.”
“You’re not going to heal it, are you? I mean, you’re not going to just wave your hands and make it go away?”
“I would’ve liked that. But I know that if you’re not doing much of that kind of healing these days, there must be a reason for it, and that reason must be consistent with your love for us. For me.”
“It is, but you’re not necessarily going to understand why. Not fully, not yet.”
“All right then, I accept that. I trust you. Let it be; let’s do it your way.”
He smiled. “Fiat: ‘Let it be.’ The most beautiful word in human utterance. Oh yes, because anyone can give their body to another; people do it all the time. And they give their hearts away all the time. But to give your will to me, freely–that’s not so common, and it includes all the rest.”
His hand dropped down and rested on her back, on the place where the pain had come to rest. It felt like warmth, and peace. She wondered: “Are you going to heal it after all, then?”
“No, I’m not going to heal it. I’m going to be in it. Just as I’m in every hurt you have, every wound of body or soul. I am in each of them, and when you are seeking me, go to those places and you will find me there.”
They sat down at a little table, and he handed her a cup of something warm. She laughed: “Do you know what I could sell this for? This is no ordinary mug. You’ve touched it; it’s a holy vessel.”
“Oh yes?” A cocked eyebrow. “Then what does that make you?”