‘Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.’ Luke 8.1-3
Today is the day in the church calendar, a festival, when we particularly remember Mary Magdalene. All four gospels give her a unique place among Jesus’ followers. She was probably from Mandela by the Sea of Galilee, and she is described as having been healed by Jesus before accompanying him during his ministry, along with other faithful women. She stayed at the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion when most of the disciples had fled in fear, and she was the first among the disciples to see the resurrected Jesus at the tomb on Easter morning. Having seen him, she was given the task of taking the good news of the resurrected Jesus to the other disciples, earning her the title in the early church of ‘Apostle to the Apostles’, apostle meaning ‘one sent on a mission’.
Today I woke up feeling sad and tired because some very dear friends of mine - two couples in very different circumstances - have both had disappointments and are feeling discouraged. They are amongst many people who I know who have described themselves as feeling tired. Groaning, perhaps. Tired of the many changes which require a huge amount of responsibility and effort in the current COVID-19 environment, when many are still shielding and vulnerable. When is the right time to go out? Who should we see? Should we meet in the house or in the garden or neither? Can we go to church and worship with our church family? If my elderly father is unwell, should I stay in isolation so I can support him? These are real and very confusing questions in a time where alertness and resilience is required. And yet things are beginning to open up. There is hope of a new vaccine and there have been very few cases of people testing positive for Coronavirus in our area. Hope.
So how does this connect with the festival of Mary Magdalene? The words ‘Don’t give up’, come to mind. And a phrase which I mentioned in Sunday’s service ‘Please be patient, God hasn’t finished with me yet’, which was imprinted on wristbands in the recent past with in the letters: PBPGHFWMY. Many would have taken one look at the demon possessed Mary of Magdela and judged her to be a loose living, sinful woman, not to be associated with. Jesus didn’t. He recognised in her the desire to be free from her past life of oppression and sin, and to be redeemed, made clean, healed and to start afresh. He restored her, mind, body and spirit, and treated her with love and dignity. He enabled her to be part of his close team of disciples, working together with him, supporting Jesus and the twelve, along with other woman ‘out of their resources’. He anointed her, as she had anointed his feet with perfumed oil before his passion (suffering) and death. He gave her the vocation and the important task of ‘Apostle to the Apostles’.
Nobody is beyond the reach of the loving-kindness of God. Nobody is worthless. Everybody is loved and valued and can be healed, restored and sent out by Jesus, whose transforming presence is at work in each of us today, as we come to him. But please be patient. Don’t give up. Transformation takes time.
The Collect of the day is
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection:
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.