The Traditional Story of Mary Magdalene is Badass

Image by Carlotta Silvestrini from Pixabay

I love a good redemption story. They show the power of God to change lives. I’ve heard it said by those who have found no need for Jesus in their lives that if you need a God to make you a better person, then you’re not a good person. I actually fundamentally agree with that.

I have proven time and time again that left to my own devices, serving myself, living in my own pride and arrogance, I am capable of all kinds of evil. I am not, at my core, a good or decent person without Jesus. I’m not always sure I’m a good person with him. I mess things up constantly but I also know that Jesus has made me a better person than I was.

The traditional narrative of St. Mary Magdalene having been a prostitute, and a woman of many, serious sins, is empowering to me. Many people are pushing back about Mary Magdalene having been a prostitute because they don’t think it fits within feminist interpretations. I think they are wrong about that, she was a woman who did what she needed to do to survive.

The first thing I heard when I told someone that Mary Magdalene was my patron saint was “you know that she wasn’t a prostitute, right?” as if the idea of her being a prostitute before she met Jesus was something to hold against her.

Looking through the lens of feminist theology, the only way she could have been a prostitute in the first place was because there was a demand. Supply and demand is the way things work, which means that the men were paying her for her services. This is more of an indictment on the men than it is on her.

As someone who was forced into prostution as a child, and someone who chose prostitution later in order to provide for myself, I have a deep connection with this woman. I wasn’t looking for a patron saint the day she came and found me.

She sat beside me and told me that she was my patron, and we talked for quite some time. We have developed a good relationship and I talk to her often. Her story, her witness, and her presence in my life inspire me to love Jesus as much as she did, because Jesus has healed me also.

Her being a prostitute fits the way her story is told in the Gospels. Jesus exorcising her and healing her is such an amazing story that I don’t understand why people want to deny the beauty and miracle that was her life. It’s a feminist story if we stop and think about it.

She loved Jesus, was an Apostle to the Apostles, and she was strong enough to stay with Jesus in his passion and death, at the foot of the cross, when all the men had abandoned him. Then, after staying with him through all of that, she, a woman, was the first witness to the resurrection. That right there is some awesomely feminist shit. It’s empowering, good, and right.

Humility is a Christian virtue, and sometimes one of the mistakes that an academically feminist view of theology takes contributes to pride. When Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet, dried them with her hair, and poured her expensive lotion from an alabaster jar over them, it was an act of not just humility but love.

This scene is an important one for me. It means that Jesus takes those that society has discarded, those that are sinful, and he changes their lives so completely that they kneel and kiss his feet in gratitute. This is an example of who I want to be.

Simon looks down on Mary Magdalene with her gesture of humility, because he himself is filled with pride and contempt and he just knows he is better than her. He makes a hypocritical statement about the wasting of expensive perfume. Jesus told Simon that it was true that Mary had fucked her life up badly, and that she was a great sinner.

He then went on to explain that her sins had been forgiven, which means Jesus took them away. Jesus said that she showed such great love towards him because she had been forgiven so much, and that those who are forgiven little will love little. This inspires me so damn much, as I have been forgiven for some terribly evil things, and I see her story as an opportunity to love Jesus more, to humble myself before him because I’m so thankful and love him so much.

I’ve seen Mary Magdalene’s story used to bring goddess imagery in the Church. I’m disappointed that these narratives are making their way into the Church. We have such a rich and beautiful spirituality without bringing that into Christianity.

We don’t need or really want goddess worship in the church. There are many ways to empower women in the church withoug bringing in goddesses. If one wants to worship a goddess, or multiples goddesses, there are religious paths for that and I know because I have worshiped them plenty, but they can be worshiped on their own.

Mary Magdalene’s story is incredible, so much so that the Catholic Church canonized her as a saint. I took her name as the first part of my Christian name. The miracle of her being healed by Jesus, and loving him so much, is beautiful and empowering, and we need to stop trying to change Biblical narratives just because we don’t like them.

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MaryClare StFrancis

MaryClare StFrancis

My friends assure me that I am never boring, so hopefully you won’t be bored either.