Was Mary Magdalene in love with Jesus? Wouldn’t you be?

We recently celebrated the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene. You know MM (If she were my friend, I can imagine that I’d be calling her M&M; she’d probably hate that.), she is the redhead you see at the foot of the cross in old church stained glass windows. She, The Blessed Mother and John the Apostle were the only ones brave enough to stay and watch Jesus’ execution through to its bitter end. Mary Magdalene was also the one who first saw Jesus risen from the dead, and who earned the title, “Apostle to the Apostles” because she ran to Peter, John and the rest and told them, “He is risen!”

Over the centuries, there has been speculation about whether Mary was more than just a follower of Jesus. Some, mostly modern fiction writers, suggest that they were secretly-married, with one author taking it so far as to suggest that Jesus had a child by Mary.

Nothing in the Bible supports that. Furthermore, Jesus’ brief 3-year ministry on Earth oftentimes didn’t include time for him to eat, let alone court a woman and marry her. And then there’s the whole self-discipline thing. Jesus was here to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and to create a Way for us to attain it. He spent 40 days fasting in the desert; he was the King of Self Restraint. An unintended union with a woman is more than highly-unlikely.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Mary Magdalene was wildly in love with Jesus. He was a good, upstanding man who attracted thousands of followers. She was close to him, so she would have seen what incredible love he had for his fellows. How would she not fall in love?

I once met a young woman from our parish who was discerning the religious life. Although she hadn’t at that time made the commitment, she was clearly in love with Jesus. Her love was both personal and passionate, and many a young man discovered that it was also exclusive. She simply wasn’t interested in anyone else. That particular woman had a long path ahead of her before she would even know whether taking vows are a possibility. And that seemed to be okay. Jesus is worth it.

So, was Mary Magdalene in love with Jesus. Probably. After all, wouldn’t you be?

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Searching for the right words

Some time ago, one of my sons called looking for advice. His wife’s grandmother was very ill and the prognosis was not good. She had lived a long and full life and had been a blessing to her family. She would be missed and my son knew it would be hard on his wife. He wanted advice on helping her through this difficult time. “What are the right words to say?” he asked me.

More recently, I was in conversation with a young woman who was in a dispute with her husband. Things were complicated as such things often seem to be, and she was struggling to understand how to unravel the knot they’d tied themselves into, or at least how she could avoid making matters worse. “I just wish I knew the right words,” she repeated.

Let’s face it. Sometimes there are no “right words.” No matter how hard we plan or rehearse, what comes out of our mouth seems to be exactly the wrong thing or just so much gibberish. Often we think to ourselves that we could have made a bad situation perfect if only we had said the right thing. Still more frequently we think that our words made things worse.

Foolishness. Life is not a 2-hour movie written by a team of dramatists and filled with witty, professionally-timed conversation. Life is lumpy, bumpy and uncertain. Each individual is listening and receiving at his own unique speed. Words are powerful and can have positive impact, but we seldom know exactly what another person needs to hear or when he or she needs to hear it.

And besides, it’s usually not about the words, it’s about presence. It’s about being there. To both of the young people, my advice was the same. “Just be there. Love them and let them know you love them. The rest will take care of itself.” Love is the only thing we can offer that works every time. Words spoken in love are never the wrong thing to say. We may not see the impact they have or get the response we had expected from our rehearsal, but that’s fine. It’s the love that matters, not the words.

“My word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

God knows what needs to be said.

A fun new activity for you and your spouse

Here’s something new that you and your spouse ought to do: pray together at bedtime. I suspect many of you figured this out a long time ago; I’m a bit of a slow learner in some areas. Couples should pray together. Linda and I attend mass regularly, say prayers at meal time, etc., but a regular moment of bedtime prayer was not part of our routine. She went her way with spiritual readings and I went mine (prayers followed by a junky novel).

But then I read the Book of Tobit. Specifically, the story of Sarah, who’d been married seven times only to have each of her husbands killed by a demon on their wedding night. Sarah was at her wit’s end and considered hanging herself in shame. Rather than do that, she prayed to God, who sent the Archangel Raphael. Sarah married Tobit’s son, Tobias. At Raphael’s instruction, they prayed together on their wedding night, and lived. The demon was banished, Tobit was healed of cataracts that had blinded him and they all lived happily ever after.

So, am I worried that I’m going to get strangled by a demon when I go to bed at night? No. The story triggered a memory of something else I’d read, something more modern. You’ve all seen the grim divorce statistics, right? But if you dig around you’ll find another statistic out there that couples who pray together are far, far more likely to remain married. In fact, one version of the statistic says that the rate of divorce among active Christians who pray together as a couple is less than one-percent. Prayer works.

Linda & I are coming up on our 36th wedding anniversary. After three-dozen years, I’m not too worried that I’ll come home one day and find my stuff on the lawn and a handful of papers from a divorce lawyer in her hand. But one of the reasons I’m not too worried about that is that we never assume we have learned everything there is to know about being in love and being married. Making a little more time for a little more prayer sounds like a perfect thing for a married couple to add to their love life.