Around the Web (Part 2)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Friends of Merton by Dan Horan: “Thomas Merton continues to exercise an ‘apostolate of friendship,’ bringing people together across many divides. If you haven’t met Merton and his friends yet, I encourage you to do so.”

The Five Lessons of Good Friday by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “If we do something sinful or make immoral decisions that lead to our suffering, we could say that this suffering comes as the result of sin. But most of the time, particularly when it comes to illness and other tragedies, it is assuredly not. If you still harbor any doubts about that, think about this: Jesus, the sinless one, suffered a great deal.”

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus by Timothy Shriver: “In this man’s moments of his most extreme vulnerability, he was supported, sustained, and accompanied by one consistent friend: a woman, Mary Magdalene.”

Two Homeless People Freeze To Death Just Miles From The White House by Scott Keyes: “Though just an inconvenience for many, cold temperatures can be extremely dangerous for those with no shelter. Indeed, life-threatening hypothermia can set in even at temperatures well above freezing. Dozens of homeless people have died this winter from exposure to the elements, from New York to Chicago to California.”

A gesture of defiance by The Economist: “But in this election ordinary Afghans have sent a message: to their own politicians that stability is more important than sectional interest; to the rest of the world that their country is worthy of continued support; and to the Taliban that its claims to represent Afghanistan are hollow.”

Grisly torture photos from Syria stun U.N. officials by AP: “The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France’s ambassador said. The pictures showed people who were emaciated, with their bones protruding, and some bearing the marks of strangulation and repeated beatings, and eyes having been gouged out.”

The economic culture war over the minimum wage by Paul Waldman: “With the national debate over the minimum wage likely to intensify into 2014, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin has signed a law passed by the Oklahoma legislature that would forbid any municipality in the state from passing its own law setting the minimum wage higher than $7.25. Not only that, it forbids cities and counties from requiring employers to provide paid sick days or vacation days. Above all, this is a reminder that in many ways, the minimum wage fight is taking on the feel of a culture war. Call it an economic culture war.”

Why atheism doesn’t have the upper hand over religion by Damon Linker: “The fact is that there are specific human experiences that atheism in any form simply cannot explain or account for. One of those experiences is radical sacrifice — and the feelings it elicits in us.”

Republicans and Democrats Both Claim to Be Pro-Family. Here’s How They Can Prove It by Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker: “We calculate that a child allowance of $300 per month per child would have cut child poverty by 42 percent in 2012. Such a reduction would have lifted 6.8 million children out of poverty, plus another 4.7 million parents.”

Just Friends by John Conley, S.J.: “In discovering other human beings as mature friends, we give the lie to our society’s myth that other people exist only to fulfill our economic or sexual ambition. The path to a truly humane life, one built on virtue, disinterested service and an ungrasping praise of God, is suddenly open.”

Victims of bullying live with the consequences for decades by LA Times: “Victims of bullies suffer the psychological consequences all the way until middle age, with higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicide, new research shows.”

St. Mary Magdalene: How the Apostle to the Apostles Subverts Patriarchy

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles.

Who was Mary Magdalene? Few women in Christian history seem to be surrounded by as much scandal, rumors, and drama. Why? 

I grew up steeped in Catholicism and Catholic culture.  And so it was a complete shock when in my first semester at Fordham I learned there is no biblical evidence to support the claim Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Why hadn’t I heard this before? In what was perhaps my first intellectual encounter with patriarchy, I learned that art and culture had conflated an unnamed prostitute and Mary Magdalene – but there was absolutely no historical evidence supporting that move.  For millennia, much has been made of the juxtaposition of Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene — the virgin and the whore.

But what do we actually know about Mary Magdalene?

According to Luke,

Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve (2) and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, (3) Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

And so we know that she was part of a loyal group of women following Jesus, providing resources, and healed. So great was her faith and discipleship, that we know she was at the crucifixion and one of the women who followed Jesus’ body to see it properly attended.  She is one of the first to find the empty tomb – being instructed in Mark to go and tell the others.

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. (2) Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. (3) They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (4) When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. (5) On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. (6) He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. (7) But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

And in John’s Gospel, it is Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appears and gives a mission:

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb (12) and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. (13) And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” (14) When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. (15) Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” (16) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”*which means Teacher. (17) Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (18)Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.

And thus, she receives the title Apostle to the Apostles.

From medieval art to The Da Vinci Code, men throughout Christian history have desperately tried to sexualize and lessen the witness of Mary Magdalene.  Like most of the women in the Bible, we are only given brief highlights and not much detail about their lives. What we are told about Mary Magdalene, however, subverts patriarchy. She is a model of fidelity to the Lord for all of us – she stayed when all but the “beloved disciple” fled. She is not a repentant whore or foil to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is  a faithful disciple who stays with her Lord until the bitter end and after – a witness who proclaims the gospel.  

And so on this July 22, let us celebrate a woman who subverted patriarchy and proclaims the gospel in spite of all our tradition’s attempts to make her into someone less strong, less independent, less dangerous to the patriarchal narrative.