It is possible for us to unwittingly co-opt religion into enhancing our sense of bondage instead of liberation. We engage in religious rituals to earn enough merit to somehow balance our misdeeds of wayward life and thinking. However, remaining pre-occupied with our faults and failings is accompanied with great peril.
When Mary Magdalene came to Christ do you think she remained fixated on her past or she focused on God? Did she come down from the heights of desire for God into the depths of her wayward life, and search in the foul stinking dunghill of her sins, sorting through them, one by one, in detail, and sorrowing and weeping for each of them separately? No, certainly she did not. And why? Because she rejoiced in the forgiveness of her karma or sins provided by the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. She experienced that inward peace, which no performance of rituals can give or non-performance of rituals can take away. And so she hung her love and her longing desire on the life Christ freely gives.
Mary Magdalene, having repented of her past sins, did not keep reminding herself of them. Instead she returned to her practice of rejoicing in the Lord as opposed to commenting on her past faults and failings. She knew “the joy of the Lord is her strength.” Had she continued to be preoccupied by her misdeeds, she would have been less likely to move beyond the mental habits that undergirded her moral struggles. The more we indulge in mental habits of guilt and shame stemming from our past memory, and earn our merits by performing of religious rituals, the more likely our bondage will haunt us from time to time.
Pauline’s poem sums up the breakthrough of Mary Magdalene which we can experience today: “Reaching her arms so high; she thrust them through; to peg love’s laundry in the sky and white against the blue; her banners flew”. Faith in Jesus Christ sets us free.