One of the most controversial characters in the Bible is St. Mary Magdalene. Many associate her with the adulteress mentioned in John 8:7, an immoral woman who was nearly stoned to death, until Jesus told her accusers, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.”
Through centuries, historians have sought to redeem the reputation of St. Mary Magdalene. Said to originate from Magdala—a fishing village located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee—she was one of Jesus’ earliest and most loyal supporters. She traveled with Him, witnessed His crucifixion, visited His tomb only to find it empty, was the first person to see Him after His death, and announced what she saw to His disciples.
Patron saint of converts, pharmacists, hairdressers, glove makers, tanners, women, and penitent sinners, St. Mary Magdalene marks her feast day every July 22—after Pope Francis elevated her memorial to the rank of feast in 2016. (Read: A Prayer on the Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene)
In honor of St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day, here are five lessons the Bible’s most misunderstood female figure has taught us.
1. You can be healed of your demons.
How did Mary Magdalene go from sinner to saint? She acknowledged her sins and asked for forgiveness. Luke 8:1-3 introduces us to her as “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out”—a statement that could be taken literally, or symbolically, as in she was wrestling with personal demons.
It was Jesus who banished her of these demons, and with much gratitude and peace of mind, she became one of His staunchest believers. (Read: 4 Healing Prayers for a Broken Heart)
2. You have nothing to explain when you know the truth.
It was Pope Gregory I who gave Mary Magdalene her soiled reputation. “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom the seven devils were ejected according to Mark,” he said in a 591 AD sermon.
Scholars have since proven this otherwise, and because of her unwavering loyalty to Jesus, Mary Magdalene isn’t just as a saint; she is, as St. Thomas Aquinas called her, the “Apostle of the Apostles.” (Read: The film that shows a different side to Saint Mary Magdalene)
3. You can make a difference in someone’s life.
She may not have been as high profile as Saints Peter or John, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned 12 times in the gospel—more than most of the apostles and more than any other non-family woman in the Gospels.
Like Mary Magdalene was to Jesus, you too can be a constant presence in someone’s life. Be a person’s great source of comfort and strength by quietly and steadfastly supporting him or her through good and bad times. (Read: 5 Easy Ways to ‘Be There’ For A Loved One With Depression)
4. You are braver than you think.
During Christ’s crucifixion, the male disciples fled the scene, for fear of being arrested. Not Mary Magdalene, who watched this horrific event then stayed to help lay Jesus to rest.
If there’s something that you strongly believe in, fight for it! Hold fast to your convictions even at the risk of being ridiculed (or in the case of the disciples, thrown in jail).
5. Your faith will be rewarded.
John 20:1-18 narrates that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after His death and the first to report the good news to the disciples. What a fitting reward for a woman who devoted her life to His ministry!
Let her faith remind us to remain hopeful and trusting of God’s love and perfect timing.