Friday, June 13, 2014
APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES
Mary Magdelene by Perugio
On the eve of our celebration of Father’s Day, I can easily say that I had a great dad growing up who died all to young of cancer when I was in college. He was a dedicated father and husband who worked all sorts of hours and days as a Santa Fe Railroad engineer. However, he still made time when it was available for family. As he worked to provide for us, my mother stayed home in partnership raising us kids. After our dad died, she went to work and finished the job. Later in my adult years, I lived in partnership with my wife while we raised a beautiful daughter and two female schnauzers. I spent my professional career working in the apparel industry dominated by women. Needless to say, my life experience celebrates and recognizes the opposite sex as equal.
Adam Hamilton notes is his new book Making Sense of the Bible that Pope John Paul II quoted Pope Paul VI that the Catholic Church does not ordain women because Jesus only chose his Apostles from among men. Hamilton goes on to ask, “Was he choosing his apostles based upon who might have the greatest likelihood of receiving a hearing and becoming accepted leaders in first-century Judaism”? That was a patriarchal culture immersed in the subornation of women, not unlike the area two thousand years later.
The creation story in Genesis states that God created humankind, male and female, in his image. Neither was given dominance and God saw that it was good. But male dominance entered the world with the Fall. Jesus came to reverse the curse of Eden. The inclusion of women in his ministry was going against the grain of the culture of his time. And as James Martin, a Franciscan priest, in his new book Jesus: A Pilgrimage observes, “Throughout Christian history women’s contributions have often been downplayed, ignored, or mislabeled. Mary Magdalene, to take one prominent example, often has been identified as a prostitute—though there is no evidence in the New Testament that she was one”.
Early in his pontificate Pope Francis remarks, “the Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women, however!” So it should not be surprising that Jesus appears first to Mary and other women after his resurrection and they’re the first to believe. Jesus instructs Mary to go share the good news with the other disciples. Thus Martin writes, “My favorite title for Mary is not ‘prostitute’ or ‘sinner’ or even ‘female disciple’ but ‘Apostle to the Apostles’…It was the women who emerge as the true disciples in the passion narrative and understood that his ministry was not rule and kingly glory but diakonia, service”. Martin visited the modest town of Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient synagogue at the site. He writes, “In Galilee today, where a large church is dedicated to Peter, all Mary can claim is a dusty archaeological site. That may change in the future, but it is notable that, at least in Galilee, the one who is more honored is not the one who immediately believed in the Resurrection, but the one who didn’t”.
Hamilton concludes, “The curse has been addressed in Christ. Paul told us that women were to keep silent in the church because of Eve’s sin and, by implication, the curse placed upon her. Even if you take that story literally, Christ came to reverse the curse and to heal paradise. In the beginning, God’s will was partnership. Sin brought patriarchy. Shouldn’t the ideal of redemption be a return to partnership and an end to the subordination of women? And if this is the case, is it not time to recognize that Paul’s words about women remaining silent do not reflect God’s timeless will for the role women are to play in church?”