“I was one way … and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between … was Him.”
These are my favorite lines from Season 1 of The Chosen TV series that portray with artistic imagination and dialogue, the back-story of Jesus’ ministry, and in this episode, the life of Mary Magdalene. In this scene, Mary, who takes on the name Lileth, is plagued by demons that have thrust her into an immoral life. She is seen clinging to Isaiah 43 remembering how, as a frightened little girl, her father would reassure her with the words:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
No One Can Help Mary Magdalen But Him
As torment engulfs her life, she is visited by religious leaders including Nicodemus who, although caring about her, is incapable of helping her and acknowledges that only God could cast her demons out.
Then, in a single moment, Jesus encounters her and calls her by name. Completely thunderstruck that anyone would know her “real” name, she turns to look and the intensity of His gaze pierces her darkness and the demons are cast out. She is free. The words of Nicodemus ring true: “Only God Himself could have drawn them out …”
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, a “true and authentic evangelizer”. Pope Francis’ appreciation for this “apostle of the apostles” inspired him in the Year of Mercy to elevate her place in the Church’s liturgical calendar from a memorial to a feast, drawing attention to her life, her faith, and the overwhelming grace of God extended to unworthy sinners like us.
Demons and the Deliverer
Mary Magdalene’s dark, deranged, and desperate existence is manifested in Luke 8:1-2. She is introduced as one cured of seven spirits. At first glance, it appears uncanny to be remembered this way in history, yet, this is precisely what sets her life apart. Her wounds become the place of her victory. Jesus met Mary at her worst. He gave her freedom and she gave Him her fears. Mary knew personal resurrection, not when the demons were cast out, but when she invited Jesus in. Only then was she permanently free, made spiritually new and given eternal life.
Demon-possession is a difficult concept to grasp in our 21st century yet we are aware that we all struggle with our demons. There are days where the pull of sin is too strong; other days we wrestle with our past, our failures, and our defeat.
In my own life, I’ve had to deal with the terrifying oppression of darkness following my conversion from atheism. I had deep wounds and too many demons to confront resulting from a godless existence. In my desperate pleas before a God who hears, I encountered the only way to freedom made available through Jesus Christ. “Only God Himself could have drawn them out …”
The demons are real but so is the Deliverer.
You can trust Jesus to heal you. Which part of your history, your sin, that accident, that mishap, or that relationship needs to be named? There is no lingering surprise before God’s throne, only freedom bestowed.Saint Mary Magdalen's wounds become the place of her victory. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Called by Name
In John 20:11-18, following the crucifixion, Mary woke up early to anoint Jesus’ body, wanting to see Him one last time. She witnessed His miracles before. Could she hope for one even now?
Worn out from Good Friday and with strength worn to a thread, Mary was frantic as she searched for Jesus’ missing Body, mistaking Him for a Gardener. How profound that is! Jesus is the Divine Gardener, restoring the first garden that was fractured by Adam’s sin. As Mary sought for the One Who was dead dead, it is He who surprised her with life, calling her by name.
Don’t we desire to be called in this most intimate way?
The greatest event in history did not resound with a thunderbolt; it began in the calling of a name. Mary didn’t have to wait until Heaven to experience the Resurrected Christ, she encountered Him in the ordinary, and so can we.
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Called Forth in Freedom
At my moment of conversion, the brother who laid hands on me was praying in tongues, but I heard: “Michelle, I am here.” Astonished how he knew my name, I went to inquire only to find out that he didn’t know me at all. He concluded, “It is God calling you.”
Over the years, the memory of that whisper remains etched in my spirit.
But I am also aware that the thought of God knowing our names can be startling and frightening. We may live under the illusion that our flaws, fears, and fragile memories can stay hidden. But how might it change if we imagined God calling our names in the midst of it? Would we run and hide, afraid of being “seen” where we were once hidden? Or would we take a risk for freedom, found in the very Presence of One Who sees everything and still calls?
Mary found herself in the midst of the greatest miracle. A new love song burst forth. It’s a new beginning. The risk for the freedom Christ offers is worth it. It is worth turning, again and again, to find it.
Christ calls us from within, only to propel us forward into freedom.
Go and Tell
Do you doubt that God can call you?
The One who marks us with His own Name also trusts us to tell of the love that transforms. Who would say that a demon possessed woman would be entrusted to “go and tell”? Yet this is our story. Like Mary, we discover both a life beyond the grave and the freedom to go forth as the light, in the Name of the Light Who offers every sinner an opportunity for sainthood.
There are no recorded miracles and signs by Mary in the Gospels but this we know: Mary was a lover, a faithful lover. This is how she is remembered. This is how we must be remembered.
Sister, your past is not a barrier for God and your poor choices cannot derail His plans. The Resurrection can begin right here, right now, the moment you turn to look at Him. Hear Him call your Name. Hear Him whisper, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you …”
See Him offer you your own personal resurrection and then thank Him for the opportunity to go and tell:
“I was one way….and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.”
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us!
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