Sermons from St Faith's

St Mary MagdaleneFred Nye

Homily preached by Father Neil at the Healing Service on the Feast of S. Mary Magdalene (July 22nd, 2005)

Today is the Feast of S. Mary Magdalene, often referred to as ‘the Penitent’. Popular legend suggests that she was a prostitute- though there is no documented evidence to support that claim. Nothing new there then! Many today are happy spreading malicious gossip and scandal, whether there is any truth in it or not, and nothing grabs the headlines as boldly as sexual sins, as if they were the worst in the book. Is it not Rule 1 of journalism: ‘Don‘t let the facts get in the way of a good story’?

What is known about Mary Magdalene is that she was a well known sinner - just like you and me in fact - but when she encountered Christ her life began to change and was put in some sort of proper order and perspective. It mattered not what her sins were, the most important thing to Jesus was the fact that she wanted to change and to be changed.

Is that not why we are here tonight, in order to encounter the healing power of Christ in the sacramental act of anointing? … to be assured in the laying-on of hands that nothing can ever separate us from his love? … to be reminded that even in the most difficult situations in life Jesus is always present?

God meets us where we are - none of us is perfect - and the suffering and pain which is so real, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, is never a bar to Christ filling us with his healing love. S. Mary Magdalene teaches us powerfully that love overcomes fear and despair. She may well have felt when she met Jesus that she was someone outside his love, a million miles away from where others ‘seemed’ to be. The truth is we are all in the same place - frail, fragile, vulnerable, aching, longing…. But it is precisely in that place that God meets us.

S. Mary Magdalene was present at the Cross just as people we know (carers, partners, spouses, friends), are there sharing the pain of those they love: powerless, often wishing they could take the pain themselves instead of watching a loved one suffer. They follow the example of Mary Magdalene who didn‘t run away when things got difficult but stayed the course.

There is no room for God in pain-less, sin-free people! Sorry to disappoint! There is a shape in each one of us that only God can fill. God can only work miracles, in lives and people, where there is brokenness.

I have been very taken recently with a book which was given to me called ‘The Heart of Henri Nouwen’. It is a collection of bits and pieces from his many books. There is a wonderful chapter entitled 'Broken Glass’:

‘I recall a scene from Leonard Bernstein‘s Mass (a musical work written in memory of John F. Kennedy) that embodied for me the thought of brokenness put under the blessing. Toward the end of this work, the priest, richly dressed in splendid liturgical vestments, is lifted up by his people. He towers high above the adoring crowd, carrying in his hands a glass chalice. Suddenly, the human pyramid collapses, and the priest comes tumbling down. His vestments are ripped off, and his glass chalice falls to the ground and is shattered. As he walks slowly through the debris of his former glory - barefoot, wearing only blue jeans and a T-shirt – children’s voices are heard singing, Laude, laude, laude  - ‘Praise, praise, praise’. Suddenly the priest notices the broken chalice. He looks at it for a long time and then, haltingly he says, ‘I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly.’

It may not look that way to the world, but in God’s eyes the brokenness of our lives is precisely what is used for His glory to shine. Forget how Mary Magdalene looked to the world. She was the first one chosen to see the Risen Lord. That speaks volumes about the depth of God’s love which is offered to us in this liturgy. We are every bit as special to Him as she was.

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