She Who Loved Much: Mary Magdalene
By: Ana If you are anything like me, maybe words like these have crossed your mind at some point:
Does God actually want me?
If this person knew my past, they probably wouldn’t be my friend anymore.
I’m not worthy of any vocation so I doubt I have one.
We are called to be saints but is it too late for me?
Such thoughts may happen if like me, you have a past. I wasn’t always Catholic and at some point lived a very different life. Though I went to Confession and knew I was forgiven, I still felt – different, stained, forever ‘ruined’ somehow. I had a chance to make the right choices and I didn’t. God forgave me, but would I ever forget them?
I looked at the “good Catholic girl” persona I built up for myself. I wear a crucifix and try to dress the way I should. I’m involved at my parish. However, the person next to me at Mass has no idea that the girl next to them who prays and maybe “looks Catholic” has lived a very sinful life. Most of my friends don’t even know. What would happen to our friendship if they found out – everything? They are good people and they’d probably just be glad I found God eventually. Yet sometimes there’s this nagging doubt – if people knew, would they reject me?
One day I came across the Gospel passage about the “sinful woman” with the perfume. I was touched to the depth of my heart by what Jesus did for her. Most Catholic scholars consider her to be St Mary Magdalene. So I imagined her… Everyone knew she had a sinful past. She must have been constantly reminded of it, and didn’t feel worthy of anything. Maybe she struggled fiercely to overcome her sins, because of a look Jesus gave her as He walked past, and some words she heard Him say of God’s longing for her soul. She heard Jesus would be at this house; she came there, and there He was! She wanted to run up to Him right then. Yet there were people all around Him… important people like the Pharisees. They would only throw her out. If she could reach Him, she would thank Him from her heart.
However, these other people – they weren’t thanking Him.. they were involved in their own conversation and they didn’t wash His feet, or treat Him like an honoured guest. He had done so much for them, cured the sick, and showed them such compassion – and no one did anything for Him. So then she forgot all her fear of these people, and what they would think, and took the most expensive perfume she owned. She entered the room and went right up to Jesus. He was at the table with the really important people, but she no longer saw them. She no longer saw anyone except her beloved Savior.
He must have felt tired from so much walking and caring for these souls… She bent low at His feet and tears streamed from her eyes. She was overcome with gratitude and contrition. The tears fell over His feet and she took her long dark hair, and wiped them. She covered His feet with her kisses and cried. She poured the perfume over His feet and its fragrance filled the whole room. It was like she was pouring her whole heart before Him.
But what would He say? Perhaps she wondered.. These things she was doing were so bold. They were too bold. She was afraid to look around because doubtless, the people around her and all the Pharisees were staring at her. They were probably talking about her too, and about how she is not supposed to be there.. Fear filled her – would Jesus send her away too? She knelt to the ground by His feet. If He tells me to go, she thought, I’d have no where else to go, and there would be no hope for me at all.
She looked up at Him very quickly… would He look angry, or repulsed? She was a sinner, and so she should not have been touching Him at all. Especially not Jesus, who is so holy. Yet she saw only love in His beautiful eyes, and heard the words:
“Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she with tears hath washed my feet, and with her hairs hath wiped them. Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less” (Luke 7: 44-47, D-R)
Then, He turned to her and said, “Thy sins are forgiven”. “Thy faith hath made thee safe, go in peace”.
No matter how sinful we feel our past is, we don’t need to be afraid to love Jesus. Any sins we have committed in the past, are not only forgiven when we confess them, but forgotten. We can love Him greatly, even like the Saints. I’ll borrow an idea from St. John of Avila: Jesus did not turn away from His executioners as they nailed His hands and feet to the Cross. He looked at them with infinite compassion and prayed to the Father to forgive them. If He showed only endless love to those who killed Him, what would His response be to someone who comes to love Him in return? For example, someone who comes to visit Him when He’s all alone in the Tabernacle, forgotten by most of the world. This person comes and says something that Our Lord desires to hear from each soul – “I love You Jesus”. Would He truly turn them away?
A priest once asked me – if I could see Jesus, how do I think He would look at me? I tried to imagine this many times since then. I’m sure when I’ll actually see Him someday, I’ll realize that all my imagination completely falls short. Yet thinking of this can be very healing. This look of perfect love that we long for in the deepest part of our souls, is the same look that He gives us in the Eucharist, and from the Cross. We only have to come to Mass to meet Him. I believe He wants us to give Him this fear, and with trust abandon ourselves to His embrace.