Shrine of Mary Magdalene, Vezelay, France
_ You can see it in the face of a survivor, the twinkle in her eye that tells you: I have seen the worst, I have fought the devil, I have walked through the fire and I’m still here. Something about the pink feather boa wrapped ‘round her graceful neck, the colorful ribbons born proudly on her chest, the song of hope in a cemetery that makes you want to tip your hat, bow your head or courtesy in her presence. There is something magical and inspirational in her smile that entices us all to believe, we shall overcome. And there is nothing that can rival the power of the heart that bleeds this refrain in all the world.
_It is the testament of Mary of Magdala, out of whom Jesus cast 7 demons. She came from the fishing village of Migdol on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Her little town bore the name Migdol in Hebrew which means “tower” likely because of towers built to dry fish caught fresh from the Sea. Though legend and lore have added color to her character, the text tells us that Jesus healed her and that once he had done so, she followed him all the way to the cross and then to the tomb. It seems fitting that she is from the town called “tower,” she who was at once, broken, resilient and strong.
To be sure there are countless theories and there has been endless speculation, particularly in the realm of fiction novel and ancient papal homilies, regarding the connection between Jesus and this woman. What is true is that Mary Magdalene is named more than any other disciple of Jesus in the Gospels and she is the first witness and herald of the resurrection of our Lord. Aptly lauded is she then, by St. Augustine who said, “The Holy Spirit made Magdalene the apostle to the Apostles.”
More than being the exception, however, isn’t Mary of Migdol the every-woman? Hers the story, the song of the one set free from chains, released from disease, redeemed from the clutches of death itself. Mary Magdalene is the hallelujah of the one who knows if it had not been for the Lord on her side…, the life that can not help but sing of the love of Jesus that brought her back from the end.
Mary Magdalene’s life is the Amazing Grace of the Gospels, the one who has been saved who can not abandon her Savior. Her life is a tower, standing tall for all of us, broken, bruised, brought low by loss, sickness, heartache, despair. The bells from her ancient tower peal and ring out through the ages, hold on…when all seems lost, when you do not understand, when you can not see a way through, when you watch life itself ebb away on a tree or lie cold in a tomb, hold on. Her life says wear your pink feathers with pride, slap your survivor bumper sticker on your car, rally, encourage and come alongside others who are also in the fight, continue to follow, endure to worship, persist to believe in this One who said, “…In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John. 16.33