I remember Mary the mother of Jesus. During communion every Sunday and on Good Friday. The bread and wine- body and blood – I remember Jesus but also in my mind is the first woman in Jesus’ life, Mary. Mary, who actually and literally and intimately carried this flesh and this blood within her for 9 months and then years later grieved at the cross as she witnessed that flesh and blood slowly and painfully dying. Her very flesh and blood. Once part of her, now broken for her. Once within her, now poured out for her.
When I take communion myself, and when I serve it to brothers and sisters at my side. When I carry it, consume it, allow it to pierce my heart. When I surrender and give thanks and even when I fail to understand. When the bread and wine, body and blood are held in my hands, I remember the death of Jesus, and in some ways I am Mary the mama of my Lord.
I remember Mary of Bethany. Practically a sister to Jesus. She took on the priestly role of anointing Jesus for his burial. Was she the only one who actually got it? Was she the only disciple who understood? Did her cheeks flush and heart pound and eyes burn with tears as she marched through the cluster of men towards Jesus’ feet to prepare him, and perhaps prepare herself, for his death?
When my cheeks flush and my heart pounds and my eyes burn with tears to march forward the only way I know to be right I remember the death of Jesus, and in some ways, I am Mary of Bethany.
I remember the women at Golgatha. Many of the other disciples had fled and denied and even betrayed, I remember the women who remained. Did they console each other? Were they crying or stoic? What memories flooded their minds? What did the gruesome sight before them do to their hearts, to their faith? In the midst of these questions, they persisted until the end. They hadn’t left Jesus before, and they didn’t intend to now.
When I want to turn away. When Jesus asks too much of me. When his sacrifice disturbs me. When the temptation to hide and flee and even deny threaten to overwhelm me yet I stay and bear witness with faith smaller than a mustard seed, I remember the death of Jesus, and in some ways, I am the women at the crucifixion.
I remember Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Friend of Jesus, redeemed and healed and set free and devoted for life to this Son of Man. She thinks she is showing up to do the necessary duty of caring for a dead body, but Jesus meets her. She thinks she is along the path of grief, but the resurrection puts her on a path of hope. She thinks she is getting a second chance to cling to her savior and rabbi, but Jesus sends her to use her voice in a “man’s world”. She moved in mere moments from the numbness of tragedy to the delirium of hope to the charge of being the apostle to the apostles. Thousands of years and thousands of lives would be built upon her preaching, her witness, her faithfulness. A woman who had been radically transformed and radically faithful from the beginning.
When my devotion to Jesus looks foolish to outsiders, when Jesus moves me from tragedy to hope to mission. When I want to cling and stay safe, but Jesus sends me out to preach and give witness in the power of new life. When it’s so easy to believe that I am the wrong person for the job, I remember the good news of the resurrection of Jesus and in some ways, I am Mary Magdalene.
It is during Holy Week that I often feel closest to Jesus as a woman. Perhaps it is as Rachel Held Evans describes
I suspect she knew instinctively, the way that women know these things, that a man who dines at a leper’s house, who allows a woman to touch him with her hair, who rebukes Pharisees and befriends prostitutes, would not survive for long in the world in which she lived.
Surely a woman in this society would understand this better than a man.
Perhaps this is why the women stayed by Jesus’ side after so many of the Twelve betrayed him, denied him, and fled from him in fear. This was the course of things, the women knew
I enter into this story as each of these women, and as myself. All around there is chaos, death, pride, confusion, arguing, religious pomp and circumstance, facades, betrayal, oppression and lies – as much during that first holy week in Jerusalem as this one in 2017.
But if I can clear away those cobwebs I can see that at the end of the day in the middle of it all there sits my Jesus, and a place for me at his feet. Just as there was a woman called to carry his body and his blood, just as there was a woman called out to anoint him, just as there was a woman compelled to witness the crucifixion, just as there was a woman chosen to first preach the resurrection.
Just as there were women before me, so I am today, and so there will be women who come after me.
We are the women of Holy Week. We have chosen what is good.