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Cast Out Your Demons

Words can uplift, affirm, and bless. Words can also mislead, falsely acclaim, and detract.

As we celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, she can attest to both. First, let’s not miss the word “saint.” A saint is one who is a holy person, a person who is revered and honored. She was called by Jesus. She was a faithful companion to Jesus. She was the first person Jesus appeared to after the Resurrection. She proclaimed his Resurrection to the apostles, making her the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

In a single sixth-century homily, Mary Magdalene was identified as a prostitute. This label stuck even though there is no evidence in Scripture or history that this was true. This is not an appropriate way to describe our dear sister in faith.

What we do know of Mary Magdalene from Sacred Scripture is that she “was cleansed of seven demons” (Mark and Luke). When I think of demons, I think of those things that control me, things which have taken me over. Demons come in many forms – nightmare memories that impact thoughts, feelings, or behaviors such as abuse, bullying or a tragic accident; addictions to things like food, alcohol, or drugs; physical or mental illness, such as pain, seizures, or depression; and let us not forget “labels,” especially labels that block the way to the truth of who a person really is.

My Aunt Mary’s full name was Mary Magdalene and she always joked about how she lived up to the name she was given. What she meant was she was an awful “sinner” too. My Aunt Mary was a wonderful, fun, and caring woman who was given misinformation and carried a label that had been passed on for centuries. How much more glorious would have been her self-identification had St. Mary Magdalene’s “label” been “friend of Jesus,” “Apostle to the Apostles,” or simply “saint – holy woman of the church.”

What Mary Magdalene offers us is a path to having our demons cast out: encounter Jesus and be open to Jesus. Who of us is totally free in body, mind, and spirit? What are the “controls” in your life? From what would you like to be set free?

Mary Magdalene is our sister. Let us honor her and be grateful for her as we celebrate her feast day on July 22.

Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Why Catholic? team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

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