Friday, July 22, 2011 — Week of Proper 11, Year One
St. Mary Magdalene
To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Friday of Proper 11 (p. 976)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)
1 Samuel 31:1-13
OR the readings for St. Mary Magdalene (p. 998)
Morning Prayer: Psalm 116; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Mark 15:47 – 16:7
Evening Prayer: Psalms 30, 149; Exodus 15:19-21; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I chose the readings for St. Mary Magdalene
The women were only doing their duty. It was the humble work of anointing Jesus’ body for burial. Earlier there had been no time in the rush before the sabbath. This was unclean work. Religious men would not touch a dead body. It would make them unclean. This was women’s work.
There is an interesting detail in Mark’s Gospel. “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.” Are they the only ones who risked staying close enough to the burial to know where the council member Joseph of Arimathea had taken the body? The men are notably absent in Mark’s account. After Peter’s denials, there is no mention of the other apostles or the male disciples. Only women. Watching the suffering. Women’s work.
Maybe it was because Mary Magdalene had been through so much suffering already that she could get up early that Sunday to do this duty. Luke’s Gospel says that she had been freed from seven demons by Jesus. She’s been through so much, and Jesus has freed her. What despair she must feel now. How hard it is to make one step follow another when things are so dark and hopeless. Yet there she is.
The women proceed toward their bitter task. Although they don’t know how they will get the stone moved to access the body, they move ahead in trust. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” they wonder. A man might not have gone ahead without figuring out ahead how he would get the stone moved. That’s a detail that might have frozen me. I don’t ask for directions. I don’t expect that someone will be around to help me. I assume it’s all up to me. The women don’t let such details retard them. They move ahead decisively.
When they arrive, the tomb is open, and a young man gives them the news of resurrection. Mark’s account leaves them there, amazed and terrified.
“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” speaks the prophet Zephaniah on this feast of St. Mary Magdalene.
“The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies.”
The prophet goes on to say that we shall fear no more.
God will “deal with all your oppressors…”
“And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise…”
“At that time I will bring you home, at that time when I gather you; …when I restore your fortunes before you eyes, says the Lord.”
These are things I want to see. Resurrection. Rejoicing. Enemies turned away and oppressors dealt with. The lame and outcast secure and respected. Homecoming. Fortune restored.
I want to see this for our nation and for our planet. I want to see the lame saved and the outcast gathered. To see the homeless housed and the unemployed’s fortunes restored. I’m tired of the oppressors. I’m tired of the wealthy and powerful, the polluters and abusers, making the rules and getting things their way. I don’t want angry, greedy people continuing to make more bad decisions. I want hopeful people. People who are willing to do their duty. People who can face the deadliness of reality. Willing to trust. Willing to anoint dead bodies and to keep on going, in charity and in hope. I want hopeful people who can see resurrection. No more fear. No more manipulation by fear. Love and duty. Perfect love casts out fear. Mary Magdalene knows all about that.