11 Oct Mary Magdalene: Sinner to Saint
If someone asks you to sum up the whole Bible, just start singing Amazing Grace. It was grace that saved us. We were lost, we were sinners, but God found us and gave us new life. Mary Magdalene was a sinner, but now she’s a saint. You can also become a saint, even if you’re as deep in sin as she was. She was the one who was possessed by 7 demons, but she was also the first one to witness the resurrection (Mark 16:9). Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off (Proverbs 23:18).
WHAT MARY MAGDALENE DID, AND WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Mary Magdalene experienced God’s forgiveness, compassion and mercy
She was once possessed by 7 demons, which symbolise the 7 cardinal sins: jealousy, pride, anger, lust, laziness, greed, gluttony. The Lord cast out these 7 demons from Mary Magdalene and He can cast them out of you too! He will give you the gifts of purity, chastity and sanctity, and then lust will have no place in you. If you’re tormented by jealousy, the Lord will give you the gift of love. If you have too much pride, the Lord will give you the gift of humility and pride will depart from you. Are you tormented by the spirit of laziness? He will give you the gifts of diligence and hard work, and you will be transformed. Pray Psalm 40:8 unceasingly (‘I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart’), because anyone who has the desire to do God’s will can overcome laziness. If you’re tormented by the spirit of anger, God will give you gentleness and meekness and then anger cannot live inside you. Are you tormented by greed: for money, power, position, things of this world? He will give you the gift of generosity, and you will become gentle and start sharing. If you’re tormented by gluttony and cannot control your desire for food, He will give you self-control and then gluttony will have no place in you. Mary Magdalene was tormented by these 7 demons, but Jesus cast them out of her. You will also receive the same mercy and compassion.
‘And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that He was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment’ (Luke 7:37). This is the woman that the Lord healed, delivered and appeared to: Mary Magdalene. She followed Jesus, wherever He went, and that’s why she could experience Him. The Word of God from the prophet Micah 7:18-19 was fulfilled through the life of Mary Magdalene. After she encountered Jesus and His compassion, she would’ve said ‘Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because He delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:18-19).
What does God do with sinners? He will not just forgive us; He will collect all our sins in a sack and throw it into the depths of the sea. ‘My transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity’ (Job 14:17). He not only forgives; He hides our sins. This is what happened to Mary Magdalene, she experienced the forgiveness, compassion and mercy of the Lord. Though she was a sinner, Jesus forgave her. ‘But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). This is why she had such profound love for the Lord. ‘Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8) This is how Mary Magdalene became a new person; she loved Jesus and everything was forgiven. The Lord is just asking you one simple thing: do you love me? This is what He asked Simon Peter (John 21:15-19). 3 times He said, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’, even though Peter had denied Him 3 times. And as soon as Peter said, ‘yes Lord, you know that I love you’, everything was restored. When you love the Lord, the multitude of sins you have committed will be covered, not just forgiven. No one will be able to see the past failures of your life.
Jesus loves each and every one of us, no doubt but it won’t make much difference unless we love Him. It doesn’t mean much if you hear about someone who was drowning, then was saved and became indebted to the person who saved them. But if that someone was you, it makes all the difference. The person who saved you was Jesus, and you owe Him your life. This is what made Mary Magdalene commit her life to the Lord.
2. Once she realised that she had been saved, Mary Magdalene started supporting Jesus’ evangelisation
‘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 8:2-3). Many people have been converted but are not supporting God’s work. Once you encounter Jesus you can’t keep living by just running a business or doing something of this world, you need to commit your life to God’s work and evangelisation.
There was an engineer whose daughter was seriously ill with cancer. He attended a retreat and prayed, and his daughter was healed. From then, he started getting people to come to that same retreat centre, sharing his faith and evangelising. From then, he started getting God’s grace. ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 10:32). You all have so many experiences with God, share them with others no matter how small they are. Mary Magdalene continued to do this, and that’s why her heart was not empty; 7 demons were cast out and she was filled with God’s love.
There was a person who was in a prayer group but wanted to leave it, and that’s when she was elected to be the leader of the group. This made her upset, so she started to pray and the Lord gave her this Word of God: ‘Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). This inspired her to take charge of the prayer group and start praying, and once she started serving God, everything else fell into place. ‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33).
There was a young boy, who after poverty and a lot of struggle, got a job in a foreign liquor shop where he was paid a high salary. After attending a retreat, he came to know that it’s a sin to sell liquor, because it destroys people. Even though he had no other source of income, he decided to leave his job. He was jobless for 2 years and went through poverty and a lot of difficulties, but he held onto God. After 2 years he got another big job in America and the Lord blessed him abundantly, because he had decided that he wouldn’t do a job that God didn’t approve of.
There was a girl who attended a retreat and was converted. She wanted to stay and help out at the retreat centre, but she was unable to because she was too busy. That’s when she was inspired to help her grandmother, who loved to read the Bible but had poor eyesight and wasn’t able to read. So, this girl started reading 3 chapters of the Bible to her grandmother, every day before she went to sleep. She was evangelising in her own little way, and this is how she became a true disciple of Christ.
There was man who was a drunkard, but after he was converted, he started bringing many drunkards to the retreat centre and shared his testimony with them. He told them how drunk and how lost he was, and how Jesus found him and embraced him and brought him back. This is what he did with his encounter with Jesus; he shared it with others and brought them to Jesus.
There was a lady who attended a retreat and had an encounter with God. She then started praying in her workplace, in the supermarket, and before she started praying, she would bring people together and start singing a hymn to God. At first, she was alone, but then 2 or 3 people joined in and they all started finding joy in the job they were doing. There was unity where before there was comparison and misunderstanding. Once she experienced Christ, she realised she couldn’t do anything without him. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
There was a banker who after experiencing God started helping the church with accounting. She used her talents to help with God’s work and like these, there are so many examples. You may also have experienced God, but like Mary Magdalene are you sharing your resources and supporting God’s work?
3. Mary Magdalene was present at the foot of the cross, at the most difficult moment of discipleship
‘But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things…The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid’ (Luke 23:49,55). Mary Magdalene followed Jesus all the way. Since her encounter with Christ, she gave her heart totally to Him, and even after His death she did not stop following him. That’s why she was near the tomb, early in the morning before anyone else. That’s why she was the first to witness His resurrection. ‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb’ (John 20:1). We don’t love Jesus the way Mary Magdalene did. She loved Him and that’s how she found Him. How can we find Jesus? ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me’ (Proverbs 8:17). Everything changes once you start loving Jesus. Don’t worry about what others think of you, worry about what God thinks of you. Mary Magdalene was a sinner in everyone’s eyes, but to God she was a saint.
We need to hold onto Christ until death, not only when we have blessings but also when we have suffering. Take Mary Magdalene for example: she was with Jesus not only when He was multiplying bread and healing the sick, but also when people were abusing Him and He was hanging on the cross. It’s easy to follow Jesus to see miracles, but can you live His passion in your lives? ‘And you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13). In your school or workplace, you might be mocked or laughed at when you talk about Jesus, but can you continue to talk about Jesus? It’s very important to share who Jesus is, this is how you can be a true disciple. ‘Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12).
4. Mary Magdalene was tortured by the absence of God
That empty feeling that we have inside of us is due to the absence of God. Mary Magdalene missed the presence of Jesus, and she became restless and lost all peace. We declare ourselves as Christians, we follow Christ and we love Him, but do we seriously miss Him? When we commit sin, we separate ourselves from Him.
There was a family who were always fighting and shouting to the point where their neighbours started to complain because of the noise. One day the parish priest went and spoke to them to sort things out. He prayed and got this Word of God: ‘See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear’ (Isaiah 51:1-2). The problem in their family was sin. If sin is the problem, confession is the solution. So, the priest asked the husband how long it’s been since his last confession, and he said, “20 years. I don’t believe in priests. Priests are also sinners like me, so I don’t go to confession.” And the priest said, “But it’s not the priest who forgives your sins, it’s Christ hiding inside the priest. And even the priests make their confession to another priest. A priest is not a perfect man, but God has given him authority. Priests are just ambassadors appointed by God.” ‘So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
When we face problems in our lives, it’s a sign that we need to repent. “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) As long as sin is inside you there will not be peace, because there is no peace for the wicked. The biggest problem in the world is sin, it’s a barrier between us and God. Mary Magdalene could feel this barrier, she could feel the absence of God and it made her suffer. ‘But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb’ (John 20:11). She wept in his absence, she cried because she couldn’t find Jesus. During the lockdown period, how many of you cried because you didn’t have the Eucharist or confession? That proves your love for God. If you haven’t made confession in a while, the absence of grace should make you struggle.
Mary Magdalene gave her life totally to Christ, she surrendered herself completely. She sought God and God alone. ‘The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18). Do you want to experience God? Call on Him in truth and you will find Him. ‘From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul’ (Deuteronomy 4:29).
5. Mary Magdalene shared the good news
She became an apostle to the apostles; she was the one who announced the resurrection to the others. Jesus appointed her to preach the good news, He picked her to be His disciple. ‘Jesus said to her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). The Lord transforms us and makes us instruments to transform others. We need to share the good news so that others can hear it too.
If Mary Magdalene lived today, many of us would’ve judged her for her past. But the Lord is not like that. He is a God of the present; He will not deal with us according to what we’ve done in the past. ‘He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever’ (Psalm 103:9). In the UK, whatever crime you commit is recorded and put on your criminal record. Once you’ve committed a crime, you’re branded a criminal. But God is not like that, which is why He made Mary Magdalene the apostle of apostles. Jesus said, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
We need to look to Mary Magdalene as an example.
- She received the compassion, mercy and forgiveness of God
- She supported Jesus’ evangelisation and gave her life totally to God
- She missed the presence of God
- She followed Jesus everywhere and never left Him
- She shared the good news
God wants us to follow in her footsteps, and never judge anyone for their past. A sinner today can be a saint tomorrow.
Transcribed from the talk “A sinner woman became a saint” by Fr Antony