Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast day of Mary Magdalene.
It is interesting to note that, although the Book of Common Prayer lectionary observes this
feast and suggests readings for it, they are not printed in the Book of Common Prayer.
I wondered if our Gospel reading for today might be included among the readings on or
after Easter, but the encounter between Mary Magdalene and the risen Christ is not among
the chosen readings. So I have had to print the reading out for us.
Let’s let that sink in. In John’s Gospel, the first person to meet the risen Christ is Mary
Magdalene. The account of that encounter is not read out in church if you just use the
readings printed in the old prayer book.
It is a beautiful passage and has inspired Christians for centuries. It is the inspiration of our
own beautiful stain glass window behind the choir stalls.
Why does the old prayer book ignore Mary Magdalene in this way? Who took the woman
out of the Easter story and why did they do it?
If Mary Magdalene is sometimes written out of the story, at other times she is slandered
and misrepresented. There is a common assumption in the church that Mary Magdalene
was a prostitute. This is simply not supported by Scripture. Over the years, people have put
two and two together and added it up to five and the myth of Mary Magdalene the
prostitute became stuck in peoples’ minds.
Mary Magdalene was a follower of Christ. He healed her. She followed him. She grieved
for him following her death. Her grief stemmed from her love for him and it was so great
that she was the one who was in the garden to meet with the risen Christ.
The first person to meet the risen Christ was a woman and not a man. In an extremely
patriarchal society two thousand years ago, Jesus encountered many women and he always
affirmed them. And the first person who encountered the risen Christ was also a woman.
Today in the modern church, we have women priests and soon I think we will have more
women priests and than men priests simply because there are more women than men in
the church.
We are used to the idea that in congregation after congregation, there are more women
than men. It shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world – he
came for the whole of humanity. But even during his life and ministry, it was often women
who responded most wholeheartedly to his call.
And it was a woman who first met the risen Christ. Her name was Mary. We remember her today. 

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