The Peace of Mary Magdalene
By Lucy Holguin
“I tell you, that is why her many sins are forgiven—because of her great love. Little is forgiven the one whose love is small.” Lk. 7:47
“…because of her great love.” The great sinner who became a great saint—Mary Magdalene. Most people focus on the change of Mary Magdalene’s lifestyle. This change in her mode of living, of course, was needed in order that she be raised to a holy life, but much more than just that caused her to achieve a higher level of sanctity. A level of sanctity that would give her the title, ‘Apostle to the Apostles’.
Her many sins were forgiven because of her great love. We reflect on the power of these words and contemplate the boundless mercy of Our Lord. What is Our Lord telling us? We notice that He said she was forgiven because of her great love. Truly, Mary Magdalene loved Our Lord, only Our Lord, the reader of souls, knew how much.
“For if you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses” Mt. 6:14. Before her conversion Mary was more than likely the brunt of jokes. She was probably ridiculed and tormented by the self-righteous around her. She had experienced the scorn of people. Her life seemed a tragic loss and she had no idea how to overcome her sinfulness. A lifetime of contempt seemed to be all she knew. Women avoided her lest they become contaminated with her ‘disease’. Men probably demeaned her publicly, yet under cover they secretly came around, for she was nothing more than an object to be used by them. At one time she had been pure and innocent, she would probably recall those innocent times with such longing but perhaps quickly put them out of her mind, since she herself had bought into the lie of not being able to escape her lot in life. She was living up to people’s expectations of her rather than the Lord’s.
The Lord alone knew what tragic consequences had brought her to such a low point in her life. He waited for her to come to Him as He waits for all the fallen and brokenhearted. It took courage for her to come before Him, but once there, she realized she was before a merciful and compassionate Lord. At this point, she experienced profound compassion. This experience gave her a deep understanding of the depths she had fallen to, which up until then had not taken responsibility for. She knew she was a sinner, but knowing it and taking responsibility are two different things.
She realized that the way she had chosen to live had been her choice. Perhaps too, she had wanted to place blame everywhere else but where it needed to be. Once having accepted this she was able to see that she was a person deserving of dignity, in fact, she was able to see that all men; friends, strangers and enemies alike were deserving of dignity and love because they are made in the image of God. So overwhelming was this realization that she was also able to forgive her tormentors. There she sat, at the foot of the Master and begged forgiveness not only for herself but also for those who had victimized her all her life. The experience of being before the Lord filled her with tender love for all those around her. But most importantly, she had given way to loving herself as one beloved by God. Through all her failures the Lord had never given up on her. She had fallen and knew how quickly and easily that fall had come. Enlightened by the realization of how incredibly weak creatures are she took pity on mankind. This realization enabled her to choose to forgive…so her many sins were forgiven her ‘because of her great love’.
Mary Magdalene’s life was transformed. She had become a new person. The purity she had longed for had returned. She knew this, the Master had forgiven her and she clung to this forgiveness. She also knew she must not ‘let the Lord down’ by falling into this sin again.
But what of those around her? With their human eyes they still saw only the sinner. They had not forgiven her, they had not forgotten, and they certainly would not let her forget. It must have been a very heavy cross for Mary Magdalene to bear. Perhaps, and more than likely, people continued whispering. Some may have refused to believe she was a changed woman and with every contemptuous look or word, her cross became heavier still. The self-righteous are always burdening others with heavy loads.
To the end, Mary Magdalene probably heard the gossip about her life again and again, yet she did not allow it to embitter her or allow herself to fall into despair. She had been forgiven and though some may have wanted to drag her down, she refused to let their words take root in her heart. She knew from the depths of her being that the Lord never goes back on His word. No one can remove God’s mercy from a repentant sinner, no one can take away the gift of forgiveness. Repentant sinners cling to that gift; it is their hope. They are well aware of their weaknesses, yet they have the assurance of the Lord’s help and strength leading them through this life of sorrows. They have a certain kind of peace. A peace that comes from the awareness of their weakness and Who it is that strengthens them. It is so unlike the false peace of the self-righteous who seem to rely on their own strength rather than the Lord’s. Focusing on others’ faults and failings they neglect to see their own sinfulness, they are truly to be pitied for they walk in darkness.
Mary Magdalene gave glory to God’s merciful love. At His feet, she found forgiveness. In His heart, she found the great love she had been searching for all her life. In His presence she found an overwhelming peace. A peace that moved her to greater love and compassion for poor souls, those who had taken great tumbles in life and especially those who were most blind to their own faults. She had forgiven and found forgiveness, she loved and found Love, and finding Love bore the fruit of peace, the kind of peace that can only be found at the foot of the Master.
“Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” Lk 6:37 “For if you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses.” Mt. 6:14
Lucy Holguin is a devout Catholic and a Consecrated Marian Catechist.