Day 3


“If I drive out demons by the finger of God, 
then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Luke 11:20

Reflection & novena prayers written by Jennifer Ristine and illustrated by Danielle Storey.

The excavated marketplace and ancient synagogue in Magdala are the perfect places to imagine Jesus teaching, healing, and encountering many people.  I love to imagine Mary Magdalene observing Jesus there.  Little by little Jesus’s words piqued her curiosity, becoming personal, and she seeks him out.  Initially, she keeps her distance as a mere observer.  Perhaps she watches him in the marketplace confronting the Pharisees as he reveals how much he sees into their hearts.  “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places” (Luke 11:43). She must wonder, “If he can see the hypocritical hearts of those men, what does he see in me?”

Then one day she dares to enter the synagogue when he is teaching.  She watches Jesus approach a woman crippled for 18 years.  He puts his hand on the woman’s stooped back and immediately she straightens up.  Surprise, delight, and anger ripple through the onlookers.   The synagogue leaders challenge the morality of his healing on the Sabbath.  With an unpretentious authority, Jesus holds his ground, exclaiming that it was only right that this woman, bound by Satan, be set free on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:10-17).

Mary feels a glimmer of hope. “Could he set me free too?”  A certain surrender and child-like vulnerability brings her to her knees before Jesus.  She believes.  She trusts.  Only he is capable of conquering the evil spirits that bind her.  His loving and pure gaze makes her a new woman, one who knows her dignity and that she is unconditionally loved.

We do not know where or when Jesus set Mary free, but this was a pivotal moment in her journey. His way was not imposing, but welcoming.  It was at once a “being set free” and an initiation into God’s Kingdom.  Jesus said, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20). The finger of God is the Holy Spirit that has the power to restore life.  Jesus invites us to a fullness of life, a deep communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, beginning with our baptism and maturing throughout our lives.

Too often our “falling short” makes us fear God and flee from his invitation of friendship (CCC 29).  Perhaps we see only the eyes of a disappointed father, rather than the loving and open arms of Jesus.  While we were originally banished from the garden, the Father sent his Son “to free us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev 1:5-6).  Entrance into this Kingdom requires a trusting, child-like spirit. As Jesus tells us, “Unless you change and become like a little child, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Lord Jesus, transform our hearts with your personal and unconditional love.  Heal my brokenness, restore my dignity, and cast out all that prevents a deeper relationship with you.  Through the gift of Redemption, may I experience authentic freedom.  Grant me fortitude so that I may faithfully follow you, even in the shadow of the Cross.  Pour out your Spirit upon me that I may passionately witness to the good news of your victory over sin and death.  And at the end of this earthly pilgrimage, may I be with you forever in your Kingdom. Amen.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

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