Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Mary Magdalene, a day that has been a celebrated as a Memorial for years past. The promotion of this day into a Feast seems to be an appropriately theological move, given how the image of the woman has evolved over the church’s 2,000 year history. We have taken hold of the view of Mary Magdalene as the same woman whom the crowd, along with the Pharisees attempted to stone. According to this interpretation, therefore, it has been understood that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute before she had conversion moment with Our Lord. Despite growing out to become a popular belief, this interpretation does not actually have any strict scriptural basis. In 2006, the movie Da Vinci Code came out, primarily a novel, taking the characterial interpretation of Mary Magdalene into extreme. In the movie, Mary Magdalene was purported to have a sexual relationship with Our Blessed Lord which, undoubtedly, provoked controversy.
There is a subtle, yet striking similarity between the popular belief about Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection, with all due respect and reverence to the latter which I profess deep-heartedly. The similarity is that both provoke heated sentiments, an either-or situation. There is a clear distinction with the attitude towards both, a black and white conceptual picture. Such is the case when both are interpreted merely by the eyes. Yet, when one sees the Resurrection and the person of Mary Magdalene through the eyes of faith, one begins to enjoy the colorful and, even more so, redeeming value of the two. In fact, the two are closely intimate with each other and the Gospels themselves justify this assertion, as Mary Magdalene was the first person to witness the Resurrection. Just as the Resurrection bears the redemptive value—in that whoever believes in it will have Life beyond Death, so does the person of Mary Magdalene bears a transformative message—in that it teaches us something divine about human relationships.
The popular belief about Mary Magdalene implies a yearning for something holy and perfect. Our society has grown obsessed with scandals, scandals that relegate the value of a person. This obsession implies that there is also a thirst for finding a divine quality in the midst of humanity. Crying over a broken object implies a desire for that object to be whole. The belief that Mary Magdalene Our Blessed Lord had a sexual relationship implies a yearning to witness a relationship so pure and transcendental. If there is anything that the Gospels are trying to assert about Mary Magdalene by recording her in their Good News, it is that the relationship between the Lord and the so-called “whore” is, in fact, pure and transcendental.
What does this mean to us?
One of the qualities of the true disciple of Jesus Christ is being able to form transcendental relationships with others. Every human relationship has a potentially divine element to it, which makes God the necessity between two persons. It follows, therefore, that the center of every human relationship, specifically between a man and woman, is not sex (it is just the means to perpetuate human life). It is not money; mutual relationship does not rest on the “scratch-my-back-and-I will-scratch yours” philosophy (in fact it is the least stable basis for relationships). It is not anything else but God. Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a pure relationship, which isn’t any different from His relationship with the other disciples. Even if some do not believe so, there is more human merit to believing so than otherwise. Perhaps the only special thing about the relationship between Our Lord and Mary Magdalene is that our society is so fond of a man-woman relationship, given how sexually charged our culture has been.
There are many broken relationships in our world, and it is what tears our world apart. May the pure and transcendental relationship of Our Lord and Mary Magdalene be our aspiration in our relational journey to the world!
Mary Magdalene, pray for us!