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JULY 22 - Mary Magdalene, Apostle

Homily by Carole Moore

Today's Lessons (Ruth 1:6-18, Acts 13:26-33) and Gospel (John 20:1-2, 11-18) are all about women - women in the Bible, women that we have all heard about and that we all know.

Our first Lesson tells the beautiful story of Ruth and her devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Our Gospel retells the Easter story, the familiar story of Mary Magdelene going to the tomb and finding the stone had been removed. She was the first person to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection.

We know that Mary Magdalene was at the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Today we celebrate Mary Magdelene, the Apostle. Bernard of Clairvaux called Mary Magdala the "apostle to the apostles" because she was sent on Easter to bring them good news from Jesus' open tomb. She went to Simon Peter and the other disciples to tell them about the Resurrection, to share the good news with them. We remember her with thanksgiving today as we recall how her words gave witness to God's powerful new life.

But who was Mary Magdalene? She is described as a devoted disciple of Jesus. She is considered by the Roman catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches to be a saint. Her feast day is today. The Lutheran church commemorates her with a festival on July 22.

Mary Magdalene's name identifies her as "Mary of Magdala," after the town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee from which she came. This also distinguishes her from the other Marys referred to throughout the New Testament.

We first read of Mary Magdalene in Luke, Chapter 8. "Soon afterwards jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward and Susanna, and many others who provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their resources." They supplied money and or supplies to Jesus and His disciples.

Mary next appears at the cross, in three of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and John. Many other women were also at the cross, looking on from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for Him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James and Jospeh. The Gospel of John writes that standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother's sister Mary, and Mary Magdelene.

Mary Magdelene was also present at the burial of Jesus. Matthew and Mark write that Jospeh of Arimathea took the body of Jesus and laid it in his own new tomb, hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdelene and the other Mary sat opposite the tomb. They saw where the body was laid.

Early on the first day of the week, as the sun was dawning, Mary Magdelene and the other Mary (the mother of James) and Salome went to the tomb. They brought spices so that might anoint him. Matthew says that there was suddenly a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. Mark writes that the stone had already been rolled back when they arrived at the tomb. The angel's clothing was white snow.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has been raised from the dead and indeed He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." They went out, Mary left the tomb filled with fear and great joy and ran to tell His disciples.

Mary went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." Then, Peter and the other disciples and Mary went to the tomb. They saw the empty linen wrappings there, then returned to their homes. All except Mary.

She stood weeping outside the tomb. She turned around and saw someone standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. He asked her, "Why are you weeping?" She assumed him to be the gardener, and asked him where they had taken Jesus. He said to her "Mary!" She turned, realizing then that it was Jesus, and siad to Him, "Rabbouni!" an address which conveys warmth and affection towards a Teacher. He told Mary to go to the disciples and tell them that she had seen the Lord.

Jesus had chosen Mary to be the first to see Him after His Resurrection and the first to share the good news with others. Mary was the first to witness the Easter faith. She herself saw and believed. Mary's personal encounter with the risen Christ is not a private experience, for out of it issues a command to share the encounter with others.

Mary is obedient to the command to share her experience. She joyfully shares the news "I have seen the Lord!"

This implies the whole of the Easter faith and is in direct contrast to her sorrow and fear earlier in the Easter story.

This lesson points out that women played a key role in the beginnings of Christianity. John's Gospel points out that there were women among those whom he calls disciples. Mary is a joyful and obedient witness to the resurrection, and to the meaning of Easter.

"I have seen the Lord!" This is the story of the Resurrection. These words begin the history of Christianity.
There is no mention of Mary Magdelene in the Bible after the Easter story. She is neither seen nor heard again, at least not in the Scriptures.

You may have heard that Mary Magdelene was a prostitute. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that this is true. The Roman Catholic Church has admitted that her standard image as a reformed prostitute is not supported by any text in the Bible.

In many art works, Mary is shown having long red hair, which she wears down over her shoulders. This was generally a sign of sexual impropriety in women of that time. The other women of the New Testament, in the same artworks, have dark hair that is kept beneath a scarf.

She was an apostle in her own right and a female role model. She goes down in history as a woman who truly loved Jesus with all her heart, and was not embarrassed to show it. She showed the power of Christ's love to save even the most fallen of humanity.

Mary was a woman of substance, brave and smart and devoted, who played a crucial role in Christianity's defining moment, the Resurrection of ur Lord.

the life of the historical Mary Magdalene has been the subject of an ongoing debate. She was the most beloved medieval female saint after Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mary Magdalene has been portrayed in andrew Lloyd-Webber's rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar." The song she sings is "I Don't Know How to Love Him."

And then we have "The Davinci Code" in which it is claimed that Mary Magdelene was the wife of Jesus and the mother of his offspring.

But what message does Mary Magdelene really bring to us?

She fills us with the glory of the Easter story. She is the first to proclaim that the Lord is Risen. She is sent to tell the others, to proclaim the wondrous happenings, to proclaim the good news. She is sent to tell everyone that the things Jesus said would happen did happen.

We are to be like Mary Magdelene. We are to proclaim to others the Good News of Christ's Resurrection. We must share this Good News with all. We all feel the Joy of His Resurrection, the wonder and glory of the easter Story. We should help others to feel that same joy and wonder.

We should not celebrate the Easter Story one day a year. We should celebrate that Easter Story every day, in every way.

We should share the Good News by inviting our family and friends to worship with us on Sundays. Each week we worship together to celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus, we listen to the Lessons, we hear His Gospel, we share His body and blood in the celebration of Communion. We sing hymns of praise, we share the Peace with one another. We demonstrate our love and concern and caring for one another, we proclaim to all that we are Christians, living in the image of Jesus.

Jesus commanded Mary to spread the news that He had risen, to spread the good news of His Resurrection. We should also spread that news, here at Church each Sunday, and in our daily lives.

Mary proclaimed "I have seen the Lord!" We should be able to do likewise.