I have not watched television or a movie for a long, long time. However, today when I was reflecting on the Feeding of the Five Thousand, one of the passages suggested in the Exercises, I recalled a scene for an old television series, Jesus of Nazareth.
The image inserted into the movie is not an image found in the Biblical account of the miracle.
But, the juxtaposition of another passage, that of The Conversion of Magdalene, as it is labeled in the book I have been using, reminded me of the a clip of Mary Magdalene receiving bread miraculously multiplied by Christ. Mary breaks down into sobs after taking the bread. One may wonder why Mary’s conversion happens in the film, in the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. One may see her conversion as the result of a deep heart awareness of the love and care of God. Ann Bancroft plays Mary Magdalene as an older, cynical business woman using sex for money. Obviously, as a prostitute, this depiction of Mary revealed a woundedness which caused her to let herself be used for money.
To not know the love of God, to not have been cared for by a loving Father, not to know forgiveness an tender loving care, would lead to an attitude that one must cope with life one’s self, without help, without hope for change. But, a simple gift of free, good bread, touched her heart, her mind, her soul, and even her body, healing her, opening her to grace.
The multiplication of the loaves is a symbol, of course, of the Eucharist, a sign of the coming Institution at the Last Supper. Mary Magdalene’s healing is through Holy Communion, through the Host, at least symbolically in this interpretation of her movement of the soul in the movie. But, feeding people, especially a woman hurt by neglect and sin, feeling that her only way out is by selling herself, is a necessity for healing.
Sexual trafficking has become big business across the world. I was speaking with someone who has been to Malaysia, who explained to me the obvious subculture there of sexual abuse of women and children.
For the Catholic to ignore this horrible crime, affecting all countries, and recently, seen clearly in the headlines of newspaper in Great Britain must be seen as a serious sin of oversight and not caring for those who are most vulnerable in today’s hard world-women and children. Mary Magdalene’s symbolic healing in the movie points to a great truth of our faith.
Healing can come through both the regular reception of Holy Communion and through Adoration of Christ in the Monstrance. A famous exorcist teaches that healing can occur through weekly Adoration.
The Bread of Heaven changes not only the soul, but the body, memory, understanding and will. One can argue about the powers of the soul philosophically, but I take Aquinas’ and Ignatius view that memory, understanding and will are powers of the soul, which in many people, need healing, as well as the body.
Mary Magdalene’s healing and conversion become a symbol for contemporary men and women caught up in negativity and loss. The long tradition of the Church is that she was delivered of seven demons. Demons enter into people through childhood trauma, through abuse, through sin. As Ignatius explains, God allows evil in order for His glory to be manifested, good over evil, holiness over depravity and so on.
The Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes remains an emblem for the Mass, for the giving of the Body and Blood of Christ to the many who desire to come to know and love Christ.
Last year, I wanted to follow the pilgrim route of Mary Magdalene, as sent traveled to France, through Marseilles and brought the Gospel to many in Gaul. She established a little cell and prayed as a hermit until she died. To see her relics in France remains a desire for me. I hope someday to be able to follow her footsteps, as she was led by her deep and abiding love of Christ, into a foreign land.
St. Mary Magdalene reminds us that we all have this duty, which flows out of the love and desires of our hearts, our souls, to bring the Light of Christ into the whole world.
The Eucharist gives us the strength and love to bring others to Christ.