CALLED BY NAME
Perhaps no other woman has gained as much notoriety in her time as Mary Magdalene. In 2009, the controversial bestseller The Da Vinci Code revived some serious allegations against her.
But what do we know of this Mary? Mark the Evangelist tells us that Mary Magdalene, possessed by seven evil spirits, was brought to Jesus for deliverance. It has long been alleged, with scant biblical evidence, that Mary was a woman of ill repute. Regardless of her sins, Mary’s life bears rich testimony to the Savior’s redemptive love, and His relentless pursuit to call her (& women) into a life of faith and discipleship. It is no surprise then, that the first recipient of the good news of the Resurrection was a woman. Regardless of her past, Mary had encountered the One through whom all things were made new.
In John 20:11-18, we read that Mary Magdalene had woken up early on the Sunday after Jesus had died. She was stubborn and unconvinced; she pined to see Him one final time. Her tears bore witness to desperate pleas before a God she hoped was listening. The same God, who she knew had heard the cries of so many thousands during Jesus’ public ministry. Pope Francis points out that Mary’s walk toward the tomb was like dying twice: first from grief at the death of Jesus, then from shock at the disappearance of His body.
Redefined In Christ
In her grief, she did not even notice the two angels who had come to talk to her. Nor did she recognize the man behind her, whom she believed was the custodian of the garden. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him,” she said to him (John 20:15).
And in that moment of tears and shattered dreams, just when all was deemed dead and hopeless, Mary saw Hope arise by way of a faint, familiar whisper. It was the whisper of the One she loved. “Mary!”
There is something about being known and called by name that gives each of us dignity and worth. To be able to look someone in the eye and say his or her name communicates knowledge, warmth, and a sense of recognition: I care enough to know your name. In a culture where worth and identity are largely determined by physical beauty, wealth, fame, or power, to experience the kingdom Jesus offers where we are known and called by name—is both humbling and life-changing.
Our worth as women is not defined by our past, but by what we can do in His service. Through this invitation to serve, we are redefined as loving subjects.
I can imagine the intensity of Mary’s emotions when she heard her Master’s voice calling her name. How wonderful it must have been to consider that the Risen One had come just for her. “Mary, I will never leave your side. I will always be with you.”
When all else fails, God still comes to us in the most intimate of ways. He knows us for who we are and He sees our suffering. How often do we navigate through life thinking God does not care, that He is removed from our pain? How often do we begin to doubt and question His words to us based on what we see or do not see? Yet in the risen Christ, God fulfills all promises. Even when He does not need to, God proves Himself.
Jesus pursues us by way of the cross and it is He who meets by way of the empty tomb.
He is with us in our trail of sin and suffering. He comes to us like a Divine Gardener desiring to gently tend to the disintegrated soil of our souls. It is He who calls and He who bids us to come with complete trust and confidence.
Transformed by Love
Pope Francis says, “Mary: the revolution destined to transform the life of every man and every woman begins with a name which echoes in the garden of the empty sepulcher.”
Our names bear our identity and our destiny. God calls us by name to mark us with His own name, but also to entrust us with a mission to tell of the love that transforms.
God calls us out only to free us. God calls our name only to propel us forward. To the woman who once was exhorted to “Go and sin no more,” once again a command is given to “Go, tell the disciples that I am risen”.
Mary Magdalene’s life bears witness to what Love can do. An impulsive and energetic woman, Mary was brought first to the garden of the empty tomb by her passionate discipleship. There, she found meaning and purpose to that discipleship. Nothing is lost when all is given to the Savior. To a world grieving loss, Mary’s encounter with Jesus at the empty tomb gives us Hope of a life beyond the grave, and more so, for the here and now, for everything that seems cold and dead. Sister, what about you?
The risen Christ is alive and speaking to you—calling you by name, in every place, every situation, even those that look nothing less than a graveyard! He calls you to freedom and He commissions you to go forth.
Think about where you are today. How do you respond to Christ’s gentle voice calling you to intimacy? How do you manage your time? How often do you give yourself the gift of quality time in prayer? Think about the mission Christ has placed within you as a mother, wife, sister, teacher, and friend.
Dear sister, Jesus is with you, even if you can’t hear him. He is with you even if you feel like you stand in a graveyard, all alone. He is with you even when you mistake Him for a stranger. He is with you and He desires to make Himself known. Hear him call your name. Hear him whisper that He loves you. Hear him remind you of your call and commission to carry the hope of the Gospel beyond the grave.