Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sermon: St. Mary Magdalene

22 July 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 20:1-2, 10-18 and Prov 31:10-31

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Satan was really interested in Mary Magdalene. And in retrospect, we can see why.

Mary was the first witness of our Lord Jesus after His resurrection. Mary was the reporter who broke the news, the good news, the gospel itself – to the world. Mary was not an apostle, but is sometimes called the “apostle to the apostles” – for though she was not sent to preach, she was sent to “announce to the disciples” commanded by the Lord to “go to My brothers” and tell them what she saw and heard.

It should hardly be shocking to us that such an important disciple and a godly example of Christian womanhood should come under attack by Satan. In fact, this beloved saint was at one time demon possessed and under the persecution of seven devils.

Satan hates womanhood – for it was through a woman that God took flesh. Satan strove in vain to attack the woman, also named Mary, in whose womb God became human. And it was through the woman Eve that Satan first lured mankind away from God and wrought chaos and death upon the Lord’s good creation.

It should be no surprise that Satan continues to target womanhood, seeking to make a mockery of the distinction between the sexes by distorting this physical status of creation into something of our choosing: “gender.” For the Lord created us in His image, male and female – he did not give us a choice or a preference to adopt any “gender” we desire. For we are creatures who have been created with a body of the Lord’s choosing. We are not gods with the ability to create alternative realities. We creatures are to submit to the will of Him who has been placed over us. We the Body of Christ are to submit to the Head that is our Lord. We, the Church, the Bride of Christ, are to submit to our Bridegoom, our Husband, who has been placed in a position of dominion over us.

All of this talk of submission is most unpopular today. Satan has convinced us that we are masters rather than servants. The devil has redefined womanhood not in terms of wife, but of partner. In some cases, Christian wedding ceremonies deliberately edit out the part of Holy Scripture in which wives are told to submit to their husbands.

But notice that Mary Magdalene, from whom the devil was cast, does exactly as her Lord bids her to do. She runs back to Peter and the other apostles. She tells them what she has been given to say. She even endures their lack of belief.

Notice that Mary does not push her way into the ministry. She does not establish a church. She does not seek out a pulpit and disciples of her own – even though she was chosen – above all the other disciples – to have the honor of seeing the risen Lord first, of being the primary messenger and witness of the Gospel of the Lord’s rising from the dead.

Modern feminists have tried to co-opt Mary as a symbol of their ungodly desire to be ordained ministers. A certain novelist has become a millionaire by slandering our dear sister in Christ, by lying about her as a bride of Jesus rather than properly confessing her as a member of the Bride of Christ, the Church.

Satan continues to lie to women about their role in the family, and lie to the world concerning what Scripture and the Church confess about womanhood.

For though Scripture teaches women to be submissive wives, it in no way diminishes or demeans womanhood. Far from it! Woman is an exalted vocation, the giver of life, the nurturer of children, the one who establishes the Christian home, the one whose service makes the work of the Church possible.

As Solomon’s proverb asks: “An excellent wife, who can find?” For “she is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

How different this is from the secular world’s view of the wisecracking wife who is always running down her husband to her friends, and even in front of her own children.

Solomon writes of the godly woman: “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”

Far from being treated as an object, the godly wife labors for the household. She provides food. She runs the home. Her value is not in running a business or working for another man, but in serving her own family and household.

“She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”

The godly wife sees to it that the home is a self-sufficient business. That is hard to do these days when all young girls are encouraged to seek outside careers and compete with men. For how many women in modern marriages can say that their “lamp does not go out at night” because they are making clothes for their families? Typically, women are so tired after working all day that they collapse in exhaustion, barely able to perform even the most basic tasks of keeping a home. In fact, even suggesting that the keeping of the home is the sphere of the wife – and not of two equal partners of opposite sexes – tends to make people angry. And yet, Scripture says what it says. Our job is to submit, not to let the devil whisper into our ears and convince us that we know better, or that God’s Word is no longer relevant today.

“Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”

How “politically incorrect” such a notion is, that the godly wife’s duty is to serve her husband to increase his reputation rather than seeking fame for herself! In our current culture, men are actually a minority among university students. Women are often the heads of households and the chief breadwinners. And in this setting, children are sent to daycare in growing numbers and at increasingly younger ages. Some schools now take children as young as two months old, and in most cases, this is not because of necessity – unless one considers a luxury car, a “fulfilling career,” or a cavernous house items that one cannot live without. The modern divorce rate shows how well the new paradigm is working.

For the woman of Proverbs 31 is clothed with “strength and dignity.” She “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” with the following words: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” For as the Lord teaches us: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

The godly Christian woman is epitomized by St. Mary Magdalene. For as much as Satan hates her, tries to possess her, seeks to mislead and deceive her, and even savages her reputation – she is a servant, a steadfast witness to her Lord, and a servant to those whom she has been placed in submission.

St. Mary is “far more precious than jewels” as our dear sister in the faith, as a godly example of womanhood, as a blessed pattern of service to all Christians, men and women alike, whose lives are to be lived in godly submission to our Bridegroom, our Husband who lays down His life for us, giving Himself completely to His bride, and sharing with us, His Church, the good news that He has risen and that the cunning devil has been defeated.

In death, Jesus has conquered death. By taking our sins, he has paid for our sins. And in His life born of a woman and in His death arranged by sinful men, the Lord has not only redeemed all sinful men and women, but has defeated the lying Serpent who wishes to destroy all men and women, created in the image of God, male and female.

It is fitting that the first bearer of this good news, the one who carried the Gospel to the preachers, enabling them to proclaim the good news to all nations, is the holy woman whose life still stands not only as an example of the godly woman of Proverbs 31, but of the faithful and submissive Christian of both sexes of every time and place, bearing witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

All praise for Mary Magdalene,
Whose wholeness was restored
By You, her faithful Master,
Her Savior and her Lord.
On Easter morning early
A word from You sufficed;
For she was first to see You,
Her Lord, the risen Christ.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.


Rebekah said...

Thank you. Beautiful image, too.

Anonymous said...

A statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Women and Work

Any reflection on the changing nature of work, even one as brief as this would be remiss if it did not comment on the changing "face" of workers that is, the number of women that are now present in the work force. Many women work outside the home for a variety of interrelated reasons: to provide necessary income for their families, to express their dignity, and to use their talents for the common good. (emphasis mine) In fact, many of the issues mentioned above are directly related to women workers. Women are disproportionately in low wage, low benefit jobs. They are more likely to lack health care insurance, and to head single parent households. Welfare reform and health care reform will greatly affect the lives of poor and low income working women and their children. In Putting Children and Families First, the bishops acknowledge the "struggle to balance work and family responsibilities" among working mothers. Catholic teaching advocates for family friendly public policies that help women and men balance work and family responsibilities, as well as social, economic and tax policies that would make it possible for women to do the important work of raising children and providing a home for their families if they choose to do so on a full time basis."

Of course, since so many religious sisters are now occupied as "professional", paid church workers or teaching in universities and seminaries the RC can hardly tell lay women to get back in the kitchen.

But I'll give 'em credit for at least supporting women's right to choose to stay home full-time.

"Social, economic and tax" solutions. Ah, the USCCB, the Democratic party at prayer.