Nine Days with Mary Magdalene – Introduction
In an increasingly secular world that still admires heroes, the saints are to the world what Superman is to Comics – classic figures of perennial value, representing goodness and triumph over society’s maladies, no matter the multitude of idols invented to distract the common seeker. Unlike comic book figures, the saints are neither mythical nor born of experimental scientific procedures or freak natural phenomena. They are born of fragile clay vessels receptive to God-given grace. Like superhero figures, the saints are unique and above the ordinary. But, unlike superheroes, the possibility of enrolling in the communion of saints is open to all. It is an open and universal school.
Saints “come to be” through free, profound, and continual encounters with the Lord. They offer us a reality check. No one is exempt from the daily battle. They remind us that the universal heart desires something more, seeks meaning, and discovers purpose within and beyond itself. Ultimately, the saints are beacons showing us the way to full maturity in freedom and love. The saints defy the “bad guys” by their simple testimony of holiness lived amidst the messiness of life’s challenges. They choose the right ally, a leader who demands nothing less than what he himself gave – his life out of love. The saints constantly reroute or maintain the course of faith, hope, and love no matter what comes their way. They are faithful to the end. And they continue their fidelity to the Lord, unseen by human eyes. Their strategy? Befriending us.
Saints are friends. And as any good friend, they invite us to share in the spiritual treasures that they have already received. They want to share the joy of a deep encounter with the Lord that they have been blessed to know. For example, St. Francis invites us to the joy of living gospel simplicity, so as to discover the ultimate jewel of the Father’s providence when we detach our hearts from all worldly gains. Saint Teresa of Calcutta invites us to an intimate understanding of Jesus’s thirst for souls found in an encounter with the destitute and most impoverished. When we find a saint that attracts us, be assured, God has sent his ambassador to encourage us, teach us essential life-giving messages, and be our guide as we enter into the mystery of a dynamic relationship with God.
In this novena, a nine-day reflection, you are invited to walk with Mary Magdalene. Let her share with you the spiritual goods and treasures she discovered in her journey of becoming a missionary disciple. Her journey reminds us of a fundamental truth: we are created out of love and for love. We carry this vocation in fragile vessels. The inherent desire to love implies a freedom to do so, but necessitates a compass or guide. Mary Magdalene likely tasted the depths of freedom, one type of freedom led her to a certain spiritual death and the other led to new life. A misguided use of freedom bound her with “seven demons.” Perhaps we can all relate in some way, as we recognize the subtle idols that snuff out the life of God within. But the good news is that Jesus steps into the messiness of our life. We have Mary Magdalene as a witness to this good news. As he did with Mary Magdalene, Jesus reaches out, takes us by the hand, and invites us to an ever new and deeper freedom – a freedom lived in accordance with our dignity, made in God’s image.
As we begin this novena, let us reflect on the journey of a soul. The fact of mere existence is a sign of God’s desire to draw us into loving communion. Beyond that, another sign of God’s love is his invitation to participate in his mission of extending his Kingdom, bringing many others to experience the personal, redemptive love of the Lord. No one is excluded from this invitation. Reflecting on the personal and unique call of Christ to us throughout our lives, may we be filled with hope and ask Mary Magdalene to intercede for us and for those in need of the hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).
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