In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. There was a time in Mary Magdalene’s life that she belonged to the world and the world loved her as only the world could. It gave her all it had to offer and then some.
How did the world love her and what did it give her? By subjecting her to evil spirits and infirmities. Scripture tells us that Jesus casts seven evil spirits out of her. What were they? We can only imagine: lust, greed, anger, depression… and they all loved her dearly.
There is the movie 300, about the 300 Spartans who took on the entire Persian army. It appeared that the Spartans would be victorious until a traitor went to Xerxes, the Persian King, and betrayed the Spartans. Xerxes makes his case to persuade the traitor to give up the needed information by saying, “Your gods were cruel. The Spartans too were cruel. But I am kind. Everything you could ever desire, every happiness you can imagine, every pleasure your fellow Greeks and your false gods have denied you, I will grant you for I am kind. Embrace me as your king and as your god. Lead my soldiers and your joys will be endless.” The traitor agrees and Xerxes responds, “You will find I am kind. I require only that you kneel.” The traitor knelt and the Spartan army was destroyed.
At a point in her life, the world said to Mary Magdalene, “I am kind. I will grant you every pleasure, every joy. I require only that you kneel.” Like the Spartan traitor, she knelt before the false gods and empty promises, but instead of possessing the world, she was possessed by it. It brought her to a state of utter misery. Yes, the world loved Mary Magdalene with great passion and its sole intent was to keep her from the love of God.
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” Yet Jesus went on to say, “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
At some point early in his ministry, Jesus looked upon this woman Mary Magdalene. He saw her misery and her loneliness, but because of his great love for all of God’s children, he called out of her those seven spirits that possessed her, declaring, “No more. You can’t have her. She is mine. I love her and I have chosen her.”
Today we celebrate Saint Mary Magdalene. We celebrate her for many reasons, but the first of those reasons is the same for each of us. Jesus said, “I choose you.” She responded, “Yes, Lord.” Her actions that followed were in line with anyone’s who had been so clearly touched by God, because she was not only a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus as attested to in our Gospel today, she was also a witness to the death and resurrection of her own life. Her life demonstrated her thankfulness through a life of service to our Lord and those she witnessed to.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Mary Magdalene knew these words in her heart even before Paul had encountered the Risen Lord; by living them out, Saint Mary Magdalene demonstrates for us what it means to be chosen by God.