Friday, July 22, 2011

Mary Magdalene: The "Other" Mary

We hear a lot about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  The Blessed Virgin.  The one who gave us the gorgeous Magnificat.  

And then there is Mary Magdalene.   The whore.  The harlot.  The slut.  The one who in the musical "Godspell" is given the sultry number, "Turn back, O Man." 

How in the world this woman has come to be linked to the legend of the prostitute turned disciple of Christ is something that baffles me.  I believe it can be traced back to the weirdness of people who don't like the thought that even the most "earthy" of women might have been Jesus' BFF. 

Even my "hometown hero" Dan Brown speculates in his multi-million dollar books that Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ had a child.  And that means Jesus had sex with a woman.  Yikes!!!  NEVER!!! 

Dan Brown's midrash on Magdalene aside, the story that seems consistently linked to Mary Magdalene is that she was the one at Jesus' resurrection and hence the first to see the resurrected Christ and spread the good news.  From John's Gospel:

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. --John 20: 11b-18

So, let's just suppose that Mary Magdalene is the same notorious Mary, the sinner who had demons driven out of her or maybe the sinner who anoints Jesus and washes his feet with her hair.  If that's the case then I say, "Bravo!"  What a wonderfully powerful statement of Scripture that a person of ill-repute is the one who gets to see the most amazing miracle of them all--a resurrected from the dead Jesus--and is the one told to go and share it with the others.  It is common throughout the stories in the Bible that it's the ones with warts and blemishes that in fact are given the glory of being God's chosen messengers.   Not always the easiest of tasks to carry out, but still they do it.  And she has been given the gift of being the first to see that not even death can take down Christ.  For God to choose her sends the message to all throughout the ages of Christianity that the one who we might not think of as "worthy" deserves our attention because that one may be bearing a tremendous gift.

And therefore, on this day, I say all those who have ever felt the scorn of the self-righteous should rejoice and raise a glass to the lady who truly embodies that amazing redemptive spirit of Christ to embrace us and restore us.  As a portion of her collect reads:

Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed of all our infirmities and know you in the power of his endless life...

Can I get an Amen?

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