“I have seen the Lord!” Can there be anything more powerful to announce to someone? These are the words of Mary Magdala after a moving, emotional and revelatory encounter with Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. The story from John’s gospel guides our liturgy this weekend as we celebrate the Feast of Mary of Magdala. We also welcome our own Dr. Peg Hanrahan, who leads two of our major ministering communities, Teen Faith and Family Faith, to reflect on this important feast day and the ministry of women in our church during the 9 and 11 am masses. These are important events for a number of reasons, but the newest comes from our dear Pope Francis. Just last Friday Francis announced that Mary Magdala’s feast day of July 22 is being elevated to a major feast, thus putting her on par with male apostles who are recognized with major feasts days. Francis says, “Mary is recognized as one who loved Christ and was very dear to him.” He goes on to state, “Mary of Magdala should be considered by the faithful as a paradigm for the ministry of women in the church.”
As we look closer at the story from the first Easter morning, the good news of Christ’s resurrection is first entrusted to Mary Magdala. Take a moment to consider how significant that is. The first person that God chooses to carry the facts of the empty tomb is Mary Magdala. She immediately does something with what she sees – she shares it with the other disciples. On returning to the empty tomb she keeps her distance, but then encounters Jesus himself. You certainly can’t blame her for not recognizing him initially, and the story unfolds as the two angels in the tomb address her as ‘woman.’ This may sound a bit harsh to us who speak English, but recall that in the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana Jesus addresses his own mother the same way. Consider that in Aramaic ‘woman’ means source of life. In English, it can carry a less meaningful tone, particularly in an initial greeting of a female.
We are all called to be a source of life for each other, but the countless women who minister in the church are truly unique examples of, and sources of, life giving energy, compassion, mercy, leadership, intellect, love and ultimately hope for us today. The biological life-giving gift that women are to our world can be a foundation for countless other avenues of enrichment for the world and the church, a foundation that men just don’t have.
Jesus himself then addresses Mary, repeating the question of the angel, “Woman, why are you weeping?” He then realizes that she doesn’t recognize him and perhaps she needs a more personal greeting. He then greets her by her name, which gives her the grace to recognize him. Her response is to call him ‘Rabboini,’ meaning teacher. What a tender and personal exchange that opens up a whole new set of emotions for Mary.
The next piece of good news that The Lord entrusts to Mary of Magdala is where he is going. He tells her, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
With so much entrusted to Mary of Magdala we can see why Francis is elevating her feast day. His message is encouraging for the church because it also encourages us to acknowledge and thank the countless women who are such a source of life for the world and the church, women who bear the good news and share it with so many. I am so proud to minister with so many faith-filled, talented, bright and dedicated women here at Holy Family. These are women who so often follow the paradigm of Mary Magdala as dear to Christ and entrusted with leading efforts to share the life-giving good news of his risen presence in our midst.
Our first reading this weekend from Genesis provides a great foundation to the gospel as Abraham’s hospitality in the desert to strangers who are passing by gives way to their prediction that his wife, Sarah, who previously could not conceive and was past her normal child bearing years, would in fact have a baby within the year. We are all often referred to as children of Abraham, and so we spiritually descend from Sarah’s life-giving possibilities, even though it was thought impossible.
We also welcome our new projectors and screens in the church. I hope that you appreciate the upgraded quality and expanded capabilities of this new equipment. Most importantly, I hope that these additions increase the reverence and sanctity of your individual prayer and the prayer of us as a community gathered and realizing the real presence of Christ in our midst. New screens and projectors are just some of the upgrades that we are making to more fully carry out the ambitious mission of our faith community.