Who was this woman Mary Magdalene? I believe a model of courage, faith and conviction. I see her likeness in a great number of people today. Even me.
I am favored to have had two times in my life where I had a great encounter with our Lord; one was more directly with mercy, the other; love. It is a beautiful and constant reminder from St. Faustina that “love is the flower, mercy is the fruit.” In fact, that is what I had inscribed on my husband’s gravestone. Without the flower, there can be no fruit. Without repentance, there can be no saving grace. It is in coming before our Lord, with the conviction, that there is no other way but through and in him. In surrendering my pride with humility and truth to the sins and weaknesses held, new life, true healing and faith can grow.
I might have said this before in another blog, but my husband and I came to know the Lord in 2006, just two years before he was diagnosed with the illness that took his life in 2017. It came to be that a beautiful and humble parish priest was to share an opportunity for healing. And it was at this healing retreat we came to have the cloak of Christ laid upon our shoulders. It took great courage to go – we didn’t know that God loved us nor desired a relationship with us; we only knew our sinfulness and thought there could be no path forward. With great faith and much fear, we chose to go … and his love came in many subtle moments; none though quite like the touching of his cloak. Here we truly began feeling his presence – and we wept many tears of sorrow, sadness, shame and regret. Yet there he was, arms opened wide, as the cloak fanned out over us. Like the fullness of the flower that yields itself to the fruit, there was no leaving this embrace; we could only surrender to it.
This sweet fruit of mercy – unconditional, everlasting and overflowing – came into our hearts. We humbly chose to accept this love and mercy, which in turn gave us the understanding that our sins didn’t describe who we were – his love did. It was a defining moment in our relationship with each other and with him. We began to trust, build strength in a lost faith now found, and open ourselves to more divine mercy and grace – surely to be needed in the trials that were to come.
The second time …. was just this past weekend. Instead of his cloak, Christ used a sword. It happened moments before my Investiture into the Apostoli Viae Community where I was making a first promise. We were all gathered together in the lower church at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. Waiting with anticipation, I read the words of St. Teresa of Jesus. Her words came to life; as I read them, I felt them…..
“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart,
and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw
them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God.
The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it.
(The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, Chapter XI; Part 17)
I trembled, and tears began to flow. You, my Lord and God, have opened my heart and body; creating in me a deep, empty cavern; a new wineskin. Your love continued; moving to the Communion rail I was given the gift of a beautiful scapular. Yes, this is what I wanted – physical, visual proof for my eyes to know I was indeed yoked to my God through this loving community. This gift of our Lady of Mt. Carmel will become a constant, daily reminder to keep me from wandering off, stepping away or slacking in this journey of growing closer to Christ. Then came the hands of founders Dan and Stephanie Burke, along with fellow Disciple Lindsey who had been praying for me, and Fr. Chris, who prayed over me. All their hands were on my shoulders and head – and I believe they had a hard time keeping the graces from oozing out! They were pushing down hard as the prayers were spoken and overwhelming peace flowed through me. I knew this was my tribe – my place of belonging – of surety in seeking, following, learning and growing in my love for our Lord, following the mission to live, light and lead the way to union with God and love of neighbor.
Mary Magdalene had a deep, personal encounter with Christ. She showed us how it was possible to let God into our lives so he can change us – by having the courage and conviction to humble ourselves before him – transforming us back to who we were meant to be – removing all that we are not. She could have left anytime after the healing – but when you are touched by the hand of God, you have no choice but to follow him. Faith leads the faithful. Faith brings hope, charity, love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and new life. Why would anyone want to leave the presence of our Most high, God and King of the Universe, of the whole world, of all Creation? May I seek to always be at his feet. My Lord and My God.
Mary Magdalene Artwork by By Paolo Veronese – National Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38800978
Divine Mercy image: Photo of artwork purchased from https://www.thedivinemercy.org