Daily Meditation: July 22, 2022

by The Reverend Michael C. Kuhn on July 22, 2022

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 

- Mark 16:1-16:7

Today is the feast day of Mary of Magdala, or Mary Magdalene, a saint who has long been a focus of both controversy and reverence. Little is known of her (true for many of the saints), and she is probably an amalgamation of at least two individuals named Mary (Mary, or Miriam, being a very common first century Jewish name.) Unfounded medieval legends have labeled her a notorious sinner; in fact, in 591A.D., Pope Gregory the Great delivered a homily that celebrated the triumph of Mary the Mother of God by also proclaiming that Mary Magdalene was that sinner woman in Luke’s gospel. It was Pope Gregory who declared that she must have been a prostitute. For 1,500 years, Mary Magdalene’s story has carried that lie. That one lie supported a system that worked to keep women “in their place” with the Church’s approval. This lie supported thoughts about Eve as well and her role in being tempted by Satan. This lie is partly why it has taken so long for the Church to ordain women, for society to confirm equal rights on women, and to support maternal leave, equal pay, women's agency over their own bodies, and the list goes on.

It is time for the Church to take seriously its historic role in suppressing the lives of people under the guise of righteousness. It can be argued that Mary Magdalene was the most loyal disciple of Jesus: she sat at his feet to learn from him; she followed him all the way to Jerusalem; she risked her own safety to stand in watch at the feet of the crucified Jesus; she went to the tomb to care for his dead body; and she was the first to witness his resurrection. While others sought to humiliate her, focusing attention on Jesus’ mother instead, it is Mary Magdalene (not perfect virgin and perfect mother) who courageously followed Jesus and witnessed the power of new life. She is to be honored among all of us as an example of discipleship.

I watch our world seek to cancel those whose opinion differs from our own; I live in fear that some Christians in this land want to make this a “Christian nation” (implying that everyone had better follow Jesus as THEY determine he should be followed); I see an emphasis put on controlling others’ behaviors rather than on demonstrating compassion for those who struggle for a place in this world. I am thankful for Mary Magdalene who, unconcerned for her own safety and reputation, only sought to faithfully follow the One who had saved her life, the One who truly loved her. She reminds me that we are called to follow Jesus; our journey’s end is not a Christian nation, but rather the Kingdom of God where all are welcomed, and all are loved.

Musical Reflection - Go Tell the World - Philippa Hanna

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.