What Mary Magdalene knew about faith in times of trouble
A Reflection for Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Find today’s readings here.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe. (Mk 16:11)
In the days after the Resurrection, some disciples had an easier time believing than others.
There are probably a whole host of reasons for this, some to do with personality and others to do with the way in which they first heard (or witnessed) the news.
It’s fascinating that, when he tells the story of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, Mark chooses to include the following detail: “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.”
Now, on one hand you could say that it wasn’t so hard for Mary to believe because she saw Jesus in the flesh; she wasn’t asked to accept based on just hearsay. But the inclusion of the seven demons story makes me think there might be more to the story of her instantaneous faith and recognition. She has already experienced a miracle, and not just witnessed it but truly felt it in a very personal way. If you’ve already been through something like that with Jesus, your relationship with him is forever changed.
When you have a transformative moment with God, when you feel that you and God have gotten to know each other personally, your life is never quite the same after that.
When I was in high school, I lost a dear friend to cancer. While going through my first real experience of grief was incredibly painful, the aftermath of her death strengthened my faith in a way I couldn’t have expected. In the support and love I felt from friends and family, in the way I leaned on prayer, in the way I saw my school community come together to honor a special life, I came to know God more deeply, and I felt immense comfort thanks to his presence in my life during a difficult time.
Maybe Mary Magdalene felt at least a little bit similarly. When you have a transformative moment with God, when you feel that you and God have gotten to know each other personally, your life is never quite the same after that. It doesn’t mean that your emotional connection to faith will be so intense at every moment going forward, but it does mean that there will be a part of you that remembers how God held you and, maybe more importantly, changed you. While we don’t all have to thank him for expelling seven demons from us (I’ll happily let Mary Magdalene keep that distinction for herself), we can look back on the moments when his presence has been so clear and comforting that our relationship with him has grown.
Thank you, God, for making yourself known to us in times of trouble. Thank you, God, for ridding us of the demons, whatever they may look like, that keep us captive. Thank you, God, for transforming us in ways we will never forget.