By Kevin Burke, LSW
Luke in his Gospel shares how the female disciples of Jesus were an integral part of His mission:
… [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women…: Mary who was called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out …and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” (Luke 8:1-3)
Contrary to the common misconception, Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala) was not the other Mary of scripture identified as a prostitute. As Luke suggests, Mary Magdalene was a woman of some financial means, in a position to contribute money to support the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.
Mary is named after the ancient town of Magdala on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mary’s conversion to follow Jesus flowed from a powerful encounter with His healing power. While her deliverance from “seven demons” could be a reference to an emotional or physical illness, she may have been involved in occult or pagan practices that opened her up to demonic oppression or possession.
Regardless, Mary’s liberation by Christ made her a generous and courageous disciple of Jesus. Mary was present at the foot of the cross, grieving, and loving her Master as he suffered the horrific torture of Roman Crucifixion.
Three days later, this disciple, Mary of Magdala, was given the singular honor of being the first to encounter the resurrected Christ:
On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. …Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping…she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.
…Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”* which means Teacher. Jesus said to her…go to my brothers and tell them…
Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord…” (John 20: 1, 11-18)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had this to say about Mary Magdalene in a 2007 address:
St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, “Apostle of the Apostles”…dedicating to Mary this beautiful comment: ‘Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life’ (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, § 2519).
An Ideal Saint for those Hurting After Abortion
Many women and men who experienced a past abortion, (including all who participate directly in some way in the child’s death,) later come to regret this decision. They hunger for deliverance from their emotional and spiritual pain.
I serve as a counselor on a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend for healing after abortion. The Friday to Sunday program is truly a powerful manifestation of the mercy and healing power of God. The retreat process features very effective scripture meditations and special exercises that facilitate a spiritual encounter leading to an interior transformation.
The Rachel’s Vineyard program creates the conditions for emotional safety, and opens the wounded heart to a merciful Christ. Each soul experiences an intimate encounter with the reconciliation of Christ, and a relationship with Jesus as their savior and Lord.
Many of the female participants on a recent Rachel’s Vineyard experienced abuse, rejection, and exploitation by significant male figures in their lives. This made their encounter with Christ even more profound and healing for them. [The creator of the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend, Theresa Burke, Ph.D., has also developed a program for emotional and spiritual healing for survivors of abuse and trauma called Grief to Grace.]
The men in our group also expressed pain and regret from their role in the abortion of their children. One man, who fought for the life of his child, expressed his grief and anger when his partner went ahead with the procedure despite his desperate pleas.
As fathers shared their own painful experiences this had the effect of softening the hearts of those hurt by men, and as the weekend progressed the group came together in their common suffering and loss, and rejoiced in the forgiveness and healing power of God. Like Mary Magdalene freed by the power of Jesus, they emerge as loving disciples of Christ. Some are called to courageously witness to the truth of their abortion loss and healing to a world that desperately needs to hear this message.
It is my hope and prayer amidst the darkness, fear and uncertainty of this Easter season that you have an intimate encounter, like Mary of Magdala, with the Risen Lord. I pray this encounter fills you with His love, as you grow to trust more deeply in his unfathomable mercy.
Please enjoy my original song and brief music video. Journey with Jesus from Gethsemane to Mount Olivet.