THE RELATIONSHIP between Jesus and Mary of Magdala has been the subject of speculation (most of it scurrilous) for centuries.
As Christians, let alone Catholics, we can be sure that nothing untoward took place between them though the temptation may have been there, certainly for her, possibly also for Him since, as Saint Paul tells us, “He was like us in every way but did not sin.”
(The idea that Jesus was subject to temptation like the rest of us ought to be a great comfort. Temptation itself is not a sin, though putting oneself in the way of it might be, and to know that our Saviour was tempted as we are ought to give us the courage to say, “you resisted, Lord; give me that strength!”)
Certainly their relationship appears to have been intense even though we are unsure from reading the gospels exactly who she was. The only firm information we have about her comes from Luke (ch 8) when he refers to her as she “… from whom He cast out seven devils”. The surprising thing is that there is no mention of that particular act of exorcism anywhere else. While it cannot quite compete with the 2,000 demons that were packed off to the Gadarene swine, you would have thought it would have been worth a mention.
At various times she has been seen as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, as the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and even as the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees used to try to entrap Jesus into a “no win” situation on the matter of stoning.
There is no reason to assume she was or was not the adulteress who, moved by Jesus’ forgiveness, anointed his feet out of love and gratitude. If she were then she was truly a “prodigal daughter” who found her way back to her father’s house and dedicated the rest of her life to serving the man who had saved her. We can speculate to our hearts’ content. There is comfort for us and a lesson to be learned in almost any interpretation of the story of Mary of Magdala and our Blessed Lord.
What we do know is that she was the first person recorded as having seen Jesus after His Resurrection. I say “recorded” because when she first went to the tomb the stone had already been rolled away and she ran post-haste to find Peter. It was after they returned and found the tomb empty that Mary met Jesus, initially mistaking Him for the gardener.
Any good TV detective will immediately latch on to the fact that there are several minutes unaccounted for here! So where was Jesus during that time and what was He up to? The only reason I pose this question is because in all the early morning comings and goings the one person none of the evangelists mention — not Luke (who we know was close to her), not John (who not 48 hours ago had promised to take care of her) — is His Mother! And I like to think that, important as Mary Magdalen was, there was another Mary whom He considered to be more important and that His first instinct would have been to see her and to reassure that her sufferings (and His) were now finally at an end and that their purpose (because the Church has always considered Our Blessed Lady to be Co-Redeemer) has now been fufilled.
There is one more mystery associated with the Resurrection. “That same day …” Luke tells us, Jesus chose to meet two un-named followers on the road to Emmaus. Whether they were putting as many miles as possible between them and Jerusalem for fear of reprisals or whether they were just heading home because without Jesus there was no point in trying to carry on, the evangelist doesn’t say. They had heard of events that morning but did not know what to make of them and evidently feared the worst.
Nor is there any explanation why He should have chosen this day of all days to give a very personal lesson to two of his followers. Again we can only speculate. Perhaps He was telling us that He may well turn up in the most unlikely places and at the most unlikely times. That He is prepared to go out of his way to be with us, especially perhaps when things are looking bleak, when we have lost our way, and that if we only listen to what He has to say we will find our way back.
Give it some thought. Because nothing that Jesus did was done without reason.