Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Feast Day of Mary Magdalene

Today, we celebrate the life of Mary Magdalene. Take a minute to read the New Testament reading for today: John 20:1-2, 11-18. How interesting to have the Easter story out of sequence, here in the middle of summer. In some ways, we can hear some nuances when these passages come to us at a time that's NOT the end of Holy Week and Lent.

Actually, the verses in between the ones for today's Gospel interest me. After Mary tells the disciples about the empty tomb, several of them race towards the tomb. They look, they assess, and then they go home. It is only Mary who stays behind to weep.

But because she stays behind to weep, to be still for a bit, she gets to be the first to see the risen Lord. The male disciples are first to see the evidence of resurrection, but Mary sees Christ. Soon othrs else will see him, but she is first.

There have been many moves throughout church history to strip Mary of her importance. Many church teachings portray her as a prostitute, as mentally ill, or both. More recently, we've had The DaVinci Code, which has many people talking about the possibility of Jesus having a family with Mary Magdalene. What is it about this woman that pushes our buttons?

The early church was quite unique. Throughout his ministry, Jesus makes clear that women are important. True, no woman is listed as a disciple. But it was women--and their money--that made the ministry of Jesus much easier. It was women--and their money--that kept the early church afloat. But somewhere in the middle ages, history was rewritten to make women seem dangerous, demented, soiled, and stupid.

That's the beauty of having Scripture that's written in our own language, that we can read for ourselves (those of us who are literate forget what a great gift we've been given). We can go back to see what the Scriptures actually say.

The story of Mary Magdalene seems similar. We need to be reminded to stay alert. Busyness is the drug that many of us use to dull our senses. But in our busyness, we forget what's really important. We forget to focus on Christ and living the way he commanded us.

If we're too busy, we might miss Christ altogether. Both the Old and New Testament teach us that God will come to us in forms we least suspect. If we're not careful, we'll assume that we're not needed and go back to our houses. If we're not careful, we won't notice that the gardener is really Jesus.

It's good to be reminded of the resurrection story in the middle of July. Now the year is over half way done. We don't have the magic of spring to renew our spirits. We may be feeling scorched by the weather and by our dashed hopes for the year. It's good to remember the story that we can be part of; it's good to remember that we're promised grace and salvation.

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