Woman, Why Are You Weeping?
“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:11).
Mary Magdalene can rightfully claim the title given her by Pope Benedict as “Apostle to the Apostles.” She is the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared on Easter morning, and he sends her to tell the other Apostles that she has seen the Lord. She is the first to preach the Good News.
This tradition, so embedded in the Gospels, might have resulted in a very different role for women in the church today had it not run into another tradition that took historical precedence. That tradition is the one that says that because Jesus chose only men to be apostles, only men can be bishops and priests. The exclusion of women from ordination has been been interpreted to mean that women also cannot preach.
If this outcome seems to frustrate the logic of today’s Gospel reading, then how appropriate it is that the evangelist puts in the mouth of Mary, and all other women who aspire to imitate her, the words, “They have taken my Lord away…” The Gospel writer may have deliberately preserved the tension of competing traditions in the early church to insure this question would continue to be debated by subsequent generations.
And debated it has been is being, despite an attempt by a previous pope to ban even the discussion of women priests. There is energy trapped here that will not go away until it is resolved. The question of the equality of women is essential to and inseparable from the Resurrection itself. St. Paul writes that “there is neither male nor female, for you all are all one in Christ” (Gal 3:28).
So in the joy of Easter, proclaimed from our pulpits by men, we can still imagine how much more complete the Gospel might sound if women were allowed to do what Jesus told Mary to do on that first Easter morning. “Go tell the others.”
Instead we have enough tears to baptize us all and to water the seeds of hope that someday this reality will finally happen.