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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19.06.2016

Dear sisters and brothers,

Last week, Pope Francis upgraded the annual liturgical celebration of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast day. Her feast day is July 22 and will now be celebrated with a similar status to the feasts of other apostles (with the exception of Sts. Peter and Paul). The Mass for her feast will now include extra prayers which explicitly refer to her as apostorum apostola – apostle to the apostles. This ancient designation comes from the gospel accounts of the Resurrection where Mary is identified as the first to encounter the resurrected Christ and told to go and tell the “brothers” what she had seen (Matt. 28:10). On one level, this upgrade doesn’t sound like a very big deal – the liturgical equivalent of being moved from cattle class to business class. But there is a larger story here. Pope Francis is attempting to make important connections – one is the healing power of mercy and the second is the role of women in the life of the Church.

Luke’s gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene was healed of “seven demons”. However, this does not make her a prostitute, as the popular imagination would have us believe. Luke also tells that she was one of a number of women who supported the ministry of Jesus from their own resources. Women bank-rolled Jesus’ journeys and supported his whole troop in various ways. This is easily forgotten or never noticed in the first place. By shining a brighter spotlight on Mary Magdalene, Pope Francis is also bringing out into open the question of the role of women in the life of the church.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the role and place of women in the life of the church is an important issue in our contemporary culture. Post-Royal Commission, the role of women in leadership and decision-making will be a vital point of renewal for the life of church in Australia. The church has previously rejected the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood, but that does not mean others forms of leadership cannot be developed. How this is done and what shape it takes is open for discussion, but the voice of men cannot be the only voices heard around the key decision-making tables of the church. As Pope Francis has noted, “Many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection, but we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” Jesus entrusted the message of his resurrection to Mary Magdalene. What might this mean for the church today?             

Fr. Anthony

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Jun 24, 2016 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19.06.2016 Listen Download