What does it mean to be identified with a city? Jesus is sometimes written off as a Nazarene, the “son of the carpenter,” whose family members are known to the townspeople of Nazareth. In contrast to Nazareth, Mary Magdalene’s hometown was a reason to respect her.
Magdala was not only a particular village but a whole commercial fishing district all along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was an economic hub, the center of a thriving salted-fish export business involving Jewish fishermen and Roman shippers. The spare references in Luke 8:1-4 suggest that Mary of Magdala was known for her power to lead others, that she enjoyed economic autonomy and shared generously. If she’d been freed of seven demons, what an abundance of health, magnetism, freedom, and joyous energy must have struck everyone who met her!
And yet when Mary Magdalene met Jesus in the garden after his resurrection, she had every basis for disorientation and distraction. The Passover festival time had turned into a nightmare, got upended by the arrest and execution of her teacher and friend, and she didn’t know what to expect. Fear, helplessness, grief, confusion, disbelief. But re-centered by her personal encounter with Jesus, she found her emotional grounding and didn’t lose her voice. She went back to the male disciples and reported what she saw and heard. She didn’t hold back. She spoke with energy and passion. That’s why we love her and remember her. May the force of both her financial generosity and truth-telling inspire us during these Easter days.