Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Mary Magdalene: A Woman's Worth

What is the role of women? I know this to be a very hard test question. It’s one of those open ended kind of questions that may have more than one answer. I suppose that you could name attributes or those things that we do, but what is our role, or rather how can we effectively inhabit our roles as women comfortably? Sometimes our role measures our worth. I would ask, why do we have to have a “role” anyway, but I am impressed to believe that roles are “patterns”.
I am pondering this because I don’t think that I have ever allowed my self to consider that my life as a woman was any different than that of a man’s. As a matter of fact, when I was growing up, the trend was to teach and empower young girls and women. The empowerement came first in the form of education for all and then better job opportunities. Young women considering college were encouraged to select educational goals outside of the box as it were. We were encouraged to be nurses and docters, artists and architects. All of that. The doors were opening for us to have a more specific role in the military. I joined the Navy during a time of great change. The war in Vietnam was winding down and there was a need for a “peace keeping” type of military. A kinder, gentler, carry a big stick kind of military. What better way to promote this than to enlarge the profile of women in the military. So I joined, but alas there was a quota on how many women could join each year. There was also a limit on specific job opportunities for women in the military. The rhetoric was there, but the reality was still divided. The one thing I learned as a young woman during that time, was that for a brief moment a woman could at least verbalize what her perceived role was in society. We would identify ourselves by our professions or our ranks in the job hierarchy,like men. The media would identifiy us by our “worth”, or salary expectations, calling us “men in skirts”. I think that most women were happy with this designation, at least for a while. What was missing ?

So, one day I was at the check out counter of my local bookstore, I was purchasing a magazine that had a picture of a famous female singer. This lady is known for her “fierce” outlook on how she works and lives her life. Everything must be stimulating and challenging and most of all fierce. So the cashier looked at the picture on the magazine and made this remark: “Humph , I can’t believe that she is trying to get pregnant” She made a face and she said it like the woman owed her money. So I said to her, “That’s great. She is married you know, and that’s what married people do, they have children. The cashier looked at me, and couldn’t say anything else. Hopefully the child will be “fierce”.

When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I noticed that there was a lot of women who were married, and had several children and most were highly educated. I was really impressed with this and I tried to approach a common thread of communication with these sisters, based on those criteria. I was surprised to find out that quite a few women were struggling with their sense of self worth, their sense of “place”, not only in the church but in their family dynamic. There are quite a few sisters who are trying to find a “name” for themselves. I understand that, because as I have received different callings and assignments, I have referenced them like “jobs”. I know a calling is not a job, but some callings can work you like an unpaid job. I have found myself wondering if I am really qualified for some of the things I have been called to do. I have wondered if anyone appreciates what I am doing and are they interested. I know this is how a lot of sisters feel. When you are released from a calling that you worked so hard on,you will be thanked, but also forgotten after the next Sunday. So I have wondered, what is my reason, and my purpose in this church, besides functioning in the “mother role”, the sister role”, the help meet role. Who is my role model?

So I have been looking for female “role models” in the church. Someone to whom I can look at the details of their lives and their testimony of the the church. I believe that we should all have someone to look up to and we should endeavor by our lives and testimonies be a person that someone  else can reference. Sister Julie B Beck, President of the Relief Society,exemplifies a good example to me. She is a mother and grandmother, a daughter,and wife. The whole package. I can say that I am probably a Julie B Beck groupie, and I hope that one day I will have an opportunity to meet her or at least attend a Womens Conference where she will speak. My second spiritual role model would be Mary Magdalene. I have a picture that shows the resurrected Christ presenting himself to Mary Magadelane. Jesus is standing, almost bowing slightly to her, and she is on her knees, with her face raised to him. Then I noticed her hands, what is she doing with her hands? and what is Jesus doing also? This is a wonderful Tempel reference, that I am sure is not lost on anyone who attends the temple regularly. Mary Magdalene was the first person, and woman to see the resurrected Christ. She was his disciple.

There is so much speculation about Mary Magdalene.Who was she? Was she a Jew or a Gentile? Was she married or single? There is not a lot of info about her, but I found a scripture that historians believe make reference to to place where she may have lived and how Jesus came to meet her.
Matthew 15:39 and He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.
Magdala, a town thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus spent a lot of time there on his misson. I believe that the sea of Galilee is where is he first walked on water. How did Jesus meet her?
Luke 8:2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of who had come seven demons
Mary was lumped into a group of women, who were distinguished by being called “certain women”. This woman had been possessed of seven demons; maybe she came to one of the meetings Jesus had. Did he find her, like he found the man who was possesed of devils in a cave on the outskirts of a town?This man was subject to fits and seizures, tearing off his clothes and running through town naked, and being a public nuisance. Was Mary Magdalene that person too? I can imagine that she probably lived with her parents, maybe they hid her in the basement and tied her to the bed. Did her mother come and implore with Jesus to heal her daughter, like this mother?
Matthew 15:21-25;28
21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour
It is a modern assumption, that “demon” possession may have included mental illness, epilepsy; touret’s syndrome and others that in the ancient world was probably frightening to witness.

In Luke 13:10-16 there is an example of an unamed woman with a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years. The scriptures do not tell us how old she was, or if she was married or a widow. Did Mary attend the synagogue?
Luke 13:10-11;16
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, is loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?
Could this be Mary’s story? For some reason, Mary of Magdalene gets a bad rap throughout history, due to the lumping together of a group of women who were labeled as sinful women in the book of Luke. It was assumed falsely that since she had seven demons exorcised, then she must have been a bad woman, and worse a prostitute.
(Wikipedia)“Pope Gregory the Great's homily on Luke's gospel dated 14 September 591 first suggested that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute: "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? ... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts."(Homily XXXIII)[”
In 1969 the Vatican, without commenting on Pope Gregory's reasoning, [13] implicitly rejected it by separating Luke's sinful woman, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdala via the Roman Missal.
What a horrible assumption, and this role distinction has followed Mary throughout history. The world will always separate women into two types or patterns that fit specific roles. Those roles are narrowly defined, either good or bad; saint or prostitute. It is interesting how this is so narrowly defined but based solely on someone’s opinion. However, the roles can interchange depending on the woman and her job, her personal life, if she has kids and no husband, etc.
There are quite a few references to various women who were either disciples of Jesus, or if they were healed by him; they sustained him, provided a place for him to stay and eat. The one thing I know for sure is that when any of the named or un-named women met Jesus and was healed by him, they were also empowered by him. What is that power, it is the power of God's holy priesthood. I am sure they were baptized. Some may have given up homes and families to follow him; some brought their families with them.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned 2 specific times in the New Testament that tell when she met and started to follow Jesus, and the second is a validation of her service and dedication to Christ.
Mark 16:9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
This is how we establish a pattern or role for Mary Magdalene. We know that somehow she made a decision to seek out the Savior, and because of her infirmities, she was having a hard life. Jesus healed her; he “loosened” her from that spiritual and physical bondage and forgave her of her sins. She repented and was baptized, and it seems that she made a decision to follow him.

Part 2 will be on How does the Savior empower us? Or rather give us a sense of self-worth?
Post a Comment