Mary Magdalene was demon possessed until she met Jesus. He drove the demons out of her and she became one of the women who supported his ministry from their own means. An encounter with Jesus completely transformed her life. She became a completely new person. That happens to us too when we meet Jesus and begin to follow him.
On 22nd July at the 2pm service the readings were Psalm 42:1-10, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 and John 20:1-2, 11-18. My reflection is given below:
When anyone begins to train as a counsellor they are usually warned that it will be a costly experience. The warning is not as a result of the price of courses, though that can be pretty steep, but refers to the personal cost of the learning involved. As training takes place it is quite usual to be asked to write a journal and this can bring up all kinds of things that have lurked in the depths of our personalities. Some can be very painful to deal with indeed as they may have been buried for a very good reason – that they hurt too much.
There can also be exercises to do in order to build skills and overcome anything that would prevent someone being a good counsellor. One of the first things taught is how to switch off your own voice in your head so that you can actually fully listen to the person you are counselling. Another issue is that of prejudice. It is not possible to listen properly if you are busy judging the person with you for some reason. I think many of us would say we are broadminded and tolerant but we all harbour prejudice against some kinds of people. We may be prejudiced against people who do a certain job, perhaps police officers, maths teachers, vicars for instance. Such prejudices may be built on a bad experience earlier in life. We may pick up prejudice from our parents and just accept it without thinking things through for ourselves. Often prejudice is based on fear of someone who is different in some way from ourselves, different colour skin, or gender, nationality, age, religion and so on.
People who are different from ‘normal’ are often rejected by other people. Mental health issues can be a major cause of this. It may be more difficult to relate to such people, they may be unpredictable; sometimes they may even behave in a dangerous or threatening way. We don’t know exactly what was wrong with Mary Magdalene but we are told in the gospels that she had seven demons driven out of her by Jesus. Whatever the demons might mean in modern terminology, Mary must have behaved in some way different from other people or it would not have been apparent that she needed to be healed. Extreme examples of the effects of demon possession were Legion who was so strong he couldn’t be restrained and who hurt himself and the boy brought to Jesus by his father, who was thrown into fire by the demon within him. Other demon possessed people seemed to shout out inappropriately, certainly when Jesus came near. Mary could have been like any of these people or entirely different from them but she was not ‘normal’. That is sure to have left her on the edges of society in some way, even though she seems to have been a fairly rich person. Money can’t protect people from everything in life.
When Jesus healed her, Mary became a new person. As Paul says, everything old passed away and a new creature emerged. This reminds me of the children’s tv programme ‘Transformers’. It was a favourite of our eldest son who also had some of the Transformer toys. For those who are not sure what I’m talking about, the Transformers could look like robots at one time and then change into vehicles so that they could carry out different tasks. The strap line for one series was, ‘Transformers, robots in disguise.’ All the parts were there for either look, it was just a case of how they were arranged. Mary became transformed by Jesus’ action. Everything was there to allow her to be who she was created to be but something was not put together properly. Jesus solved that problem and made Mary whole.
Having experienced such a wonderful change in her life, there is no wonder that Mary followed Jesus and supported his ministry. There is also little mystery about why she was at the tomb on the first Easter morning. Jesus had completely changed her life and then in three days everything had changed again in the nightmare of events which led to Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s hard to imagine how deep Mary’s grief must have been. The person who had given her the gift of a new life was himself dead. All the hope and joy had left the world for Mary. Perhaps she even wondered if her transformation would last as Jesus was dead.
Jesus’ appearance changed all that. He called her by name, ‘Mary’, and he gave her a task. She was to go and announce to the disciples that Jesus was alive. She didn’t need to cling to the Jesus she had known or the new life as it had seemed to be. The apparent disaster of losing Jesus was not a disaster at all but a new phase in her walk with him. Her transformation continued as she became a bold apostle, doing as Jesus commanded her.
When we come to faith often one of the things we experience is a sense of belonging. People often talk of having a new family of brothers and sisters. In addition to belonging, we have belief in God and in Jesus as the Son of God. Most important of all is that we are transformed. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and helps us to become all that we were created to be. In the hands of my son, Optimus Prime quickly changed to be almost unrecognisable. In the power of Jesus, Mary Magdalene was healed of her demon possession. Likewise, due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are made into new creations.
What happens if we find a disaster happens in our Christian lives though? What if we do something so bad that it seems Jesus has left us, died to us? Might we have lost our transformation? Jesus reassured Mary that he was still alive, still very much part of her life, even after evil did its best to destroy him. He called her by name and showed that the relationship was still there. Death was not able to separate Mary from her Master. It’s the same for us, even if things seem to come between Jesus and ourselves. Jesus still calls our names, he still has a task for us if we are prepared to undertake it. Our transformation can continue. The way back is through confession of what we have done wrong and an acceptance of the forgiveness that is promised to us.
Jesus died for a purpose, to provide a way for us to be transformed, “so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor