On July 22nd a group of women gathered for fellowship, to pray and celebrate the Feast of Mary Magdalene and the release of the ISLC Letter on Women Deacons. It was a beautiful morning filled with the joy of the gospel and hope for the Church. I’d like to share some reflections from the scripture readings from Mary Magdalene's Feast Day.
The first reading, Songs of Songs 3:1-4B, tells the story of the bride who seeks her beloved in the night. We hear that it is not always easy to seek and find the beloved. The bride must wander the city looking for her beloved. In the gospel for her feast (John 20:1-2, 11-18) we hear how and when Mary Magdalene seeks to find Jesus at the tomb she encounters deep sorrow at the death and absence of her friend. Yet in being her most authentic self, expressing her love and sorrow, she encounters Jesus. In the past six months our community at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center has expressed our sorrows, our pain, as well as our joys and our hopes for the ordination of women in the Church.
The discrimination of women in the Church has at times made me feel like the Bride in the Song of Songs who seeks her beloved but can’t find him. Yet, I am struck by the part of the story when the bride encounters the watchmen. It is mere moments after she leaves them that she finds her beloved. Sometimes we have to look beyond the watchguards - beyond the boundaries set in front of us. For me, this does not mean leaving the Church. Rather it means looking beyond those who live in fear, beyond those who act out fear, and speak out of fear to find that the beloved is already with us. Our letter is an expression of our longing for the beloved. To see the work of Jesus that is already active in the women saying yes to their call to the ministry of the diaconate.
Like Mary Magdalene, there are a multitude of women in the past and present who Jesus has called by name to serve the people of God. Jesus calls Mary by name and then commissions her to go forth and bear the good news. He tells her to “go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus sends Mary, a woman, to be the first to share the news of the great miracle of the Resurrection of her beloved. Jesus knows Mary, Jesus loves Mary, and he chooses her, sending her into the world to preach, to proclaim, to lead.
Let us be not afraid, let us wander the city, let us leave the city guards behind, let us proclaim the good news of the beloved who has called us each of by name. Let us celebrate Mary Magdalene with our own proclamation that Jesus Christ, our beloved, our God, is in our midst, in our ministry, and in each woman called to follow the call of Mary Magdalene, the apostle and disciple, in service to the Church.
You make our work possible.
Ignatian Spiritual Life Center
A Ministry of St. Agnes Parish
1611 Oak Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
A ministry of St. Agnes Parish in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, the Spiritual Life Center is a resource for living an Ignatian life of devotion and service. Programming includes ongoing Christian adult education and faith formation, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, spiritual direction, opportunities for prayer and retreat, and a commitment to dialogue and service in our Church and world.