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Mary Magdalene

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To show that – no matter who they are or what they've done – everyone is loved by God.

Preparation and materials

  • Organize some students to help prepare some materials for the assembly, explaining the background story about Mary Magdalene and the aim of the assembly, which is to show how the rejected have a place and value:

    – ask one or two to research or create illustrations for the subject of 'rejection'

    – ask one or two more to research and produce a brief written piece on the same subject.
  • Have available the song 'You can't hurry love' by Phil Collins and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. 


1. The feast day of Mary Magdalene is 22 July. She is the patron saint of repentant sinners.

2. Tradition suggests that Mary came from Magdala, a town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, hence her name. She was:

– healed by Jesus – the Bible tells of her being healed of seven demons (Luke 8.1–2)

– present at Jesus' crucifixion (Matthew 27.55–56)

– the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection (Mark 16.1–11)

– told by Jesus to take a message to the disciples (John 20.10–18).

Clearly, Mary Magdalene was a central figure among Christ's early followers. Some people have also suggested that she may have been the 'sinner' referred to in Luke 7.36–50 ('sinner' here means a prostitute), but there is no evidence to support this link. It is an example of how a story can become a powerful teaching point without being literally true.

3. Explain how this comparatively simple story has a revolutionary message:

– Jesus accepts someone who has been mentally ill on equal terms with his other followers and friends

– Jesus chooses Mary to be the first to tell the news of his resurrection – this is despite the fact that, in Jesus' day, a woman's word was not trusted and evidence from women was not allowed in court, so this act emphasizes the power of the trust and responsibility Jesus placed in Mary

– the story of Mary having been a prostitute is untrue, but that it is still referred to is a reminder of how long prejudice can last, as well as an illustration of how God and Jesus are ready to use the most unlikely people, even people with a colourful past!

4. Ask the students to present their illustrations and written piece. Afterwards, use their examples to illustrate the damaging nature of rejection and the pain it causes. Contrast this with the non-selective nature of Jesus' message – that all are valued, especially the troubled and weak (Matthew 11.28–30).

Time for reflection

Read the following passage from One Minute Nonsense by Anthony De Mello (Loyola University Press, 1992):

The Master hardly ever spoke of spiritual topics  . . .  there are other ways of teaching than through the use of words. 

Follow-up activity

1. Continue the work started in the assembly about people who seem to be disenfranchised – individuals, groups in society, nations. Brainstorm to make a list of them and then discuss why each might suffer from the prejudice of others. What makes people prejudiced? What can be done to change the situation?

2. This assembly and the above follow-up activity together form a substantial piece of work. It would be possible to turn it into a display for the RE classroom or wider school by including images from magazines and newspapers, together with relevant quotations from holy books. 


'You can't hurry love' by Phil Collins 

Publication date: April 2015   (Vol.17 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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