View all Novenas | April 12, 2021
DAY 4 – FOLLOWING JESUS
“In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.” Mark 15: 41
Reflection & novena prayers written by Jennifer Ristine and illustrated by Danielle Storey.
Jesus’s preaching from the boat must have hit home in the heart of Mary Magdalene. “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Mt 13:9). He spoke a parable about the necessity of cultivating the spirit to hear God’s Word. Her heart, once rocky or thorny, was discovering how fertile it could be the more time she spent in the presence of her Messiah. The expulsion of seven demons was a mere beginning. I doubt that Mary Magdalene had any idea how much her life would be transformed as she began to follow Jesus around Galilee and eventually to the foot of the cross in Jerusalem.
Mark’s simple statement teaches us a profound lesson: “…the women had followed him and cared for his needs” (Mk 15:41). The few or many months she was able to care for Jesus‘s needs were sufficient to forge a faithful follower. Depth of friendship and commitment trump length of time in this case. As she followed Jesus, perhaps she also discovered the rich gift of her feminine genius at the service of her newly found mission.
Differing traditions dispute the association of Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala, but the grateful and loving feminine spirit shines through both Marys. She may have detected the slight given by Simon the Pharisee when dining in his home (Luke 7:36-50). He did not offer Jesus the typical hospitality, but Mary made up for that. I love to imagine her show of attentive reverence by washing Jesus’s feet with her tears and anointing him with an expensive nard.
Her womanly presence amidst the band of male disciples may have added a new “family dynamic” to their travels through Galilee, adding that feminine sensitivity towards those they encountered along the way. Her feminine heart may have bled long before she watched Jesus shed his blood on the cross, simply from perceiving his pensive sorrow as his hour approached or when he prophesied that the Son of Man was to be handed over and crucified. Eventually, her attentive spirit bore fruit in solidarity with Jesus’s suffering on the cross.
Mary Magdalene preaches without words, showing us how transformative and life-bearing it is to follow Jesus. But to follow we must have ears to hear and eyes to see. We are invited to ponder his Word without rush or distractions. We are invited to be in his presence through the Eucharist. We are the blessed ones who will mature in our knowledge of and friendship with Jesus. Mary did not follow merely with her feet that walked where he walked. She followed Jesus in the depth of her interior, letting his word and presence bear life within. Like her, we can reverently adore Jesus with grateful hearts for all he has done for us, and let his life bear fruit in and through us.
Lord Jesus, like Mary Magdalene, I desire to know you more deeply, so as to love you more fully and follow you more faithfully. Make me attentive to your presence in your Word, Sacrament, and providential action in the world. May I praise and adore you in your most Holy Eucharist. Bring all to know, love, and follow you, especially those who have never heard your Word or rejected it. Grant that all who profess to be Christian may come to know you more fully and be witnesses through their fidelity to authentic Christian living. Amen.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
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