Tastes and preferences change over time, for which I am grateful. When I was younger, I didn’t like spicy food like hot sauce or horseradish sauce. Over the past couple years, I’ve started to enjoy sprinkling (sparingly) some fiery sauce over my eggs or potatoes or whatever might seem good. The surprising craving for horseradish came as a result of an encounter with a Blue Apron recipe I tried. After roasting broccoli and potatoes, the recipe called for a creamy horseradish sauce to coat the vegetables. Since then, I’ve been randomly working the interesting flavor into different meals.
As taste buds change, so also personal preferences change. What used to be unattractive, has changed over time into something which draws my heart. St. Mary Magdalene is one person who fits into this category. I’ve met several people over the years who have loved her and for many of those years, I was a bit confused. The people seemed to have nothing in common with this well-known sinner-saint, yet they were attracted to her life and witness. I can now number myself among those who love St. Mary Magdalene. While I don’t identify very closely with the particulars of her life, I identify very much with her heart.
She was a woman who was forgiven much and loved much. In an act of total self-surrender, she broke her jar of precious ointment and poured it on the feet of Jesus. Wiping His feet with her hair, she laid her entire life before Our Lord. In exchange, she was one of His closest followers, one who sat at His feet to listen to His stories and who was driven by grief to weep at His tomb after the crucifixion. In her need to be close to Him, she was sent as “the apostle to the Apostles” and was the first to witness the resurrected Christ.
St. Mary Magdalene loved with a love that was all-encompassing. That need, that desire to be a total gift for the Lord is something that resonates within my own heart. Earlier this summer while on retreat, I prayed with that passage of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. In a way that it hadn’t before, the words of the Gospel moved my heart and invited me to share more deeply in the relationship Mary had with Our Lord.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.
In prayer, I was there. I was Mary and I anointed the feet of Jesus with everything I held dearly. I wiped His feet with my hair. At His feet, I laid everything. I poured out every jar that I held in my heart of what I considered to be precious. Every dream, every hope, everything I held as sacred and worth something, I placed at the feet of the One my heart desired to belong to wholly. There, at His feet, we gazed at each other and I found myself telling Him that I wanted to be “all in.”
These yearnings and desires mirror the ones found in the heart of St. Mary Magdalene, I am certain. I have never found myself in an adulterous affair, yet I have found my heart wooed by false gods. Although I have never stood at the tomb of my brother and wept, I have experienced the Lord bringing things back to life. A woman with whom I thought I had little common ground, I instead found that I had a heart quite similar to her own. A heart that is seeking, yearning, and following after the One she loves and desires to love more totally.
I’m thankful that my tastes have changed over the years. The range of food I enjoy has grown, as have the drinks I delight in. And my heart has grown, becoming attracted to a far greater range of things and persons than it was initially. I will be so bold as to say that St. Mary Magdalene and I have similar hearts and, hopefully, we will both arrive at similar ends.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.