My name is Mary and I am from Magdala. I was the first apostle – the first person Jesus showed himself to after the horrors of the week you now call Holy Week. I was one of Jesus’ financial backers and I own a thriving series of businesses in the fishing and purple wool dying industries. My family has owned these businesses for a long time. People like fish and purple & black dye is valuable in the fashion industry especially for royalty… and the church. Because I was a rich woman in the first century, I needed to keep a low profile. I paid bills while the men ran around jockeying for positions in what they thought would be Jesus’ new administration of the planet.
I have watched the church through the centuries from my various portraits, sculptures and icons – most of which, after the 1500s paint me as a prostitute or a sinful, repentant woman. What was pope Gregory thinking when he thought it would be a good marketing plan to conflate the Mary’s of scripture into one female sinner so as to scapegoat femininity as the source of procreative female-borne sinfulness? What would the church look like if he had had a good therapist…or a hug…or both?
I have watched the church rise to Constantinian glory with regal vestments, massive churches, gold playthings and paternalistic titles while the poor starve in the streets. I have watched the church torture its opponents, massacre the infidels, burn the heretics, maneuver for power, prestige and privilege. I have watched the church begin to implode as Generations X and Y gently unfund the church and I watch now as the church reels in the awareness of its own impending starvation.
I was wandering into a church in Rome just today to watch the bowing and scraping, the moaning and wiping of ashes, the mea culpes and pious prayers for personal forgiveness as millions enter into Lent. This sign was placed by the church door to be sure women do not wear skirts too short or blouses too snug or heels too high. But its echoes reminded me of a long history of manipulation, cruelty and marginalization of the only human species which can fully say that they are made in the image of a creator God.
And so, church, I am asking if all this repentance of which you speak today might not be spoken only by we congregants and we pledgers. I am asking, if the church itself might wear its own ashes today. I asking if the church itself might kneel today. I am asking if the church itself might beg for forgiveness today. I am asking if the church itself might pound its own chest for its sins today.
I remember Jesus. We were, well, close. I wonder what Jesus would say if he went to church today. I wonder what Jesus would say if I gave him an honest church history book written by a brilliant, agnostic woman. There is a lot of purple around. It’s good for business so I can’t complain since the profits of the church’s purple vestments bought me my new, short, tight skirt – the fabulous one I am wearing now, with Prada heels and sitting here typing in my limo, waiting for the light to change.
Mary of Magdala