My friends, we have talked many times of who Mary of Magdala truly was, not a prostitute, but a priest and a prophet and an evangelist and in lifting her up, we lift all women to their true status. Women and men alike have always been called by our brother Jesus and always will be—that is what we are here to celebrate today!
A woman of our times, Sr. Joan Chittister, a prophet in her own right, in 2010 said well of Mary that she is “an icon for our Century.” From her writings in, A Passion for Life,” she wrote in length about Mary and for my homily today, I would like to include her words which say so well, and better than I can who Mary of Magdala was and why we should look up to her in our day.
Her feast day was actually, yesterday, July 22—Sr. Joan has this to say: “It is Mary Magdalene, the evangelist John details, to whom Jesus first appears after the resurrection. It is Mary Magdalene who is instructed to proclaim the Easter message to the others. It is Mary Magdalene whom Jesus commissions to ‘tell Peter and the others that I have gone before them into Galilee.’
And then, the Scripture says pathetically, ‘But Peter and John and the others did not believe her and they went to the tomb to see for themselves.’
It is two thousand years later and little or nothing has changed. The voice of women proclaiming the presence of Christ goes largely unconfirmed. The call of women to minister goes largely unnoted. The commission of women to the church goes largely disdained.
Mary Magdalene is, no doubt about it, an important icon for the twenty-first century.
She calls women to listen to the call of the Christ over the call of the church.
She calls men to listen for the call of the Christ in the messages of women.
She calls women to courage and men to humility.
She calls all of us to faith and fortitude, to unity and universalism, to a Christianity that rises above sexism, a religion that transcends the idolatry of maleness, a commitment to the things of God that surmount every obstacle and surpasses every system.
Mary Magdalene is a shining light of hope, a disciple of Christ, a model of the wholeness of life, in a world whose name is despair and in a church whose vision is yet, still, even now, partial.”
So my friends, the challenge is clear to all of us—women’s voices in this Church will only be heard when we demand that they be heard, when we do not stand idly by in the face of discrimination, sexism, clericalism—when we no longer worship priests, bishops, the pope, but demand that they be the servants that Jesus, our brother called them to be; when we demand truth from them and accept no less.
And you might ask, who are we doing all this for? Is it so that women can have power over men instead of the other way around? No, it is all about seeing to it that women in this world are respected, accepted for who they are, what they believe, what God has called them to. If this is not done in our churches, it will not be done in the rest of the world. The world is right in looking to religious bodies for an example of how to be with each other—we must not let them down—for Mary of Magdala that she would have her rightful place in our Church, for our mothers and all women who went before us, for our daughters, nieces, women and girlfriends, we must not stop demanding equality, because we will only be richer, better served, both men and women. Amen? Amen!