Society is so mobile now. We move to new places, we change jobs, and we rearrange our social circles as easily as blinking an eye. Whatever relationships have been built in the current place will be abandoned. The last time I moved to a new city I cried and promised myself I’d never move again because it hurts too much to leave behind places, friends, and memories. It tears me up inside that I cannot be home to all the people and places for whom I wish to be home. We may deceive ourselves about our friendships, promising that we’ll stay in touch online. But friends are easy-come easy-go on the internet as we drift in and out of social networks.
The fact that we accept these drastic changes without counting the cost speaks to a sense of dissatisfaction. Maybe there’s something bigger and shinier around the corner. Maybe life will be better if I hit the reset button in a new place with new people. Loyalty is a vice now, an obstacle to personal growth, so we’re encouraged to ignore feelings of guilt as we move on to the next best thing. It’s all a scam. In truth we’re wandering like Dante through a dark wood, in crisis but refusing to admit it because maybe, just maybe, the next transition to will fix us.
Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, a woman around whom swirl clouds of controversy. If we avoid the rumors and conspiracy theories about her, we get a more clear picture of a real woman who displayed a virtue so desperately needed in our day and age. Mary Magdalene is a person who stayed.
During her life, her reputation was trashed. She encountered mockery, set-backs, and prejudice. People questioned her actions and priorities, and wondered what was wrong with her and her friends, but she was steadfast. Her friend Jesus became disgraced and was executed as a common criminal and while almost everyone else left Him, she stayed. She was his friend in any and all circumstances, even to the point of weeping at His grave.
Mary Magdalene displayed a tenacity of friendship that is lacking for many of us. We move on and leave behind old friends, decide we’re outgrown them, or simply allow the relationship to languish. Whatever else Mary Magdalene may have been, she most definitely displayed faithful friendship. She’s a shining example to us that even if friendship is challenging, even if it isn’t as glamorous to stay in touch with old friends as it is to seek out new ones, there is great joy to be found in the effort. With enough commitment, old friendships age gracefully and reveal new depths. The really exciting spark between two people, the true marrow at the heart of any meaningful relationship? That, my friends, is found when we stay.