Homily – Celebration of Mary of Magdala and all Women

Dear Friends,

Thirty-six of us gathered on the Margaret and Gerold Redig Family Farm yesterday for a mass to celebrate Mary of Magdala, woman prophet and priest and all of us women and men, but especially women and to call on our Church to act as our brother Jesus did,  uplifting the God-given gifts of women and finally, finally, ordain them!  

Our mass was followed by a sumptuous pot-luck supper. We had a beautiful afternoon and evening. We missed all of us who couldn’t be with us! Following is the homily–have a great week all–Pastor Kathy

The last few Sundays the Scriptures have challenged us around the call to prophecy—the call that is ours as baptized followers of our brother, Jesus.  Those of you who are regular readers of my homilies know that I am an admirer of Benedictine sister, Joan Chittister as I feel she has taken up the challenge to be that prophet that Jesus asks us all to be.

And again, let’s review the definition of a prophet.  It is basically one who speaks the truth given by the Spirit for the People of God.  It won’t necessarily always be an easy thing to do; we may not want to do it—put ourselves out there on the line, but just the same; we are called to the task, even if we have to stand alone.

Today we celebrate the feast day of Mary of Magdala (actual feast is tomorrow).  We can be grateful to Pope Francis for raising her traditional day of remembrance, July 22nd to a “feast,” so in effect, making it equivalent to the feast days of the other apostles.  It is significant to remember that the Eastern church has always throughout its history, along with Thomas Aquinas referred to her as the Apostle to the Apostles and the Western church only recently has given her this title, because of her prophetic proclamation to these same apostles, hiding in the Upper Room, that Jesus had indeed risen!

Given that her day of remembrance has now been raised to a feast day equivalent to the other apostles, I found it strange and equally significant that her feast day doesn’t supersede the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time as it would if it were for one of the male apostles such as John or Peter.  But, at least here; we have remedied the situation giving Mary her due.

Sr. Joan Chittister recognizes the importance of remembering this woman from the fishing town of Magdala by dedicating the entire month of July in her publication, The Monastic Way to Mary.  She names her as “insightful, effective, direct and committed.”  And she goes further, suggesting that all women should act more like her.

Now of course, the Church hierarchy wouldn’t be in favor of this because unfortunately, it chooses to see its women as docile servants whose words should merely parrot the men who are in charge of what we believe. If this were not so, women would hold significant places within our Church alongside the men, sharing the gifts of the Spirit given so richly to them as well as to the men.

We only have to look at the evidence in Scripture that shows that Jesus truly considered women very important to his ministry that was all about “turning things on their heads”—calling for a new way, a way that included everyone, especially women who were his financiers, supporters and faithful followers.  And this inclusion did not stop at the table of worship, but was carried over into everyday life unlike the place that women held in Jesus’ day.  Jesus was about raising up the goodness of all, calling each one by name—recognizing their goodness as individuals, and especially of women, not because they were someone’s mother, wife or sister, but for their own personal characteristics.

Mary of Magdala was one of these whom Jesus realized was most important to his ministry because, as Joan Chittister says, “She recognized, as the men did not, that Jesus was a very different kind of person. Someone with something important to say— someone whose message was different, life-changing, was imperative—[crucial, that is] and was greater than anything heard before within the confines of Galilee, Palestine, even of Rome.”

The chosen readings for today raise up the importance given to women in Jesus’ ministry and throughout his earthly life.   Paul carries on his tradition of recognizing women’s talents to lead house churches and to be of spiritual and material support. If Jesus didn’t believe women capable, trustworthy, competent, he never would have sent our sister from Magdala with the awesome news of the Resurrection to the brothers in the Upper Room.

If Mary of Magdala was unskilled as a minister; she wouldn’t be mentioned in Scripture 14 times, which Joan Chittister says, “Is pretty big press for a woman from Palestine 2000 years ago!”  In the male apostles’ heart of hearts, Joan seems to be saying; they too knew of her importance to Jesus’ ministry, whether they would ever give her credit or not, for she got his message long before they did.  Sr. Joan continues, and once she got that message, [which can be summed up in love, love for all,] she was steadfast in remaining by his side all the way to the cross.

So, my friends, today is not a day to say who are better ministers, followers, women, or men, but to raise up the goodness of all and to encourage the voices of especially, women in Church and society, judging the rightness of the ministry, the work of women by the fruits displayed.  Joan Chittister has said it before and I agree, it is time, it is time, for our brothers in the hierarchy of the Catholic church to remember and to truly hear the message of Jesus given so long ago, but ever fresh today, that the call to serve was never about gaining power over others, but about service, about love, and any thinking, compassionate, loving person, regardless of gender can do that!

Jesus demonstrated that in his own blessed life on this earth and wanted us to do the same.  And the reason for doing this was not just to make our places and times of prayer more inclusive, but our homes and towns and cities and countries—our world, more inclusive.  What we do in our houses of prayer will most assuredly spill over into our daily lives—if women are disregarded anywhere because of the way they happened to have been born; they will be disregarded everywhere! It’s as simple as that!

That is why we celebrate the feast day of Mary of Magdala each year friends and why it is more important than the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We must say, in no uncertain terms that she was significant to his ministry as are all women, as are all men and it is time that our Church recognizes this as well and ordains women to the priesthood.

In the beginning I shared that Sr. Joan encourages all women to be more like Mary of Magdala and I would agree.  We can be silent no longer—we need to do this for our grandmothers, our mothers, and our sisters, who perhaps never knew their true voices or were able to be completely who God made them to be.  And for myself, I would say that all the men need to become more like Jesus and speak and act out the truth they know about the women in their lives so that their daughters can live in a Church and a world that truly looks first at who and what they are capable of, not their gender and proceed to discount them or at least try to tell them what they can aspire to.  The time is now for all of us friends—the time is now! Amen? Amen!