Earlier this week Deb and I received an email from a long-time FutureChurch supporter and past board member, Mary Lou. “Have you seen this?,” she asked us, including a link to a YouTube video. If Mary Lou was sending us this video, it had to be good! or perhaps very bad! Either way, it was worth a look. And so, I clicked and, upon seeing that it was a recording of an Easter morning Mass, I knew exactly what Mary Lou wanted us to see and fast-forwarded to the Gospel and Homily. The moment of truth…
I was delighted to see that Rev. Bill Kelley, SJ at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. had opted to forego proclaiming the assigned gospel passage for the day John 20: 1-9, which omits Jesus’ appearance to and commissioning of Mary Magdalene, and instead proclaimed John 20:1-2, 11-18, omitting any reference to Peter and “the other disciple.” I don’t know why Fr. Kelley chose to omit verses 3-10. Perhaps for brevity? I like to think he thought “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!” Regardless, I’m glad he chose to read verses 11-18 because it gave way to an excellent homily:
Because of Magdalene’s dogged faithfulness and her unwavering loyalty to Jesus – but most of all, because of her ability to perceive things with eyes of faith – Jesus appoints this woman as a leader to the other early Church leaders.
He goes on to affirm what so many of us know deeply from our own experience:
Mary Magdalene stands in a long line of women who have loved and served Christ, who have told others about him, who have witnessed to the truth of the Gospel, and who have been, for most of us, our first teachers and preachers of the Gospel.
It isn’t until about half-way through the homily that he fesses up to running afoul of the Lectionary:
How tragic that most Catholics never get to hear this Gospel. Never! Not on Easter Sunday, nor on any of the other six Sundays in the Easter season, nor on any other Sunday throughout the year. This narrative is simply not included in our U.S. Sunday Lectionary.
Instead, this most important exchange is assigned to Easter Tuesday – at least in the US – when Catholics are less likely to be in Church. Thankfully, as Kelley notes, the Canadian bishops have rectified the omission, securing permission from the Vatican to read John 20:1-18 on Easter Sunday, leading to promising shifts in the way Canadian Catholics view women’s leadership in the Church. Why can’t we do the same?
Perhaps, however, it is his conclusion that earns this truth-teller the standing ovation – a “great Amen” of sorts - from the congregation:
Perhaps now is the time to see how the Spirit of God, moving through the ministry of women, might lead the Church to a healthier, holier way of being. Perhaps when women participate fully and authentically in all the Church’s ministry, the heart of Jesus will, at long last, beat within the Body of Christ.
Fr. Kelley isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last truth-teller to call our attention to this grave injustice. Scholars like Regina Boisclair, Ph.D.; Ruth Fox, OSB; Eileen Schuller, OSU; and so many others have been sounding the alarm about women of scripture being omitted, made optional, or moved to a weekday in the Lectionary for decades. FutureChurch’s very first “Women Erased” presentation was on women erased from the Lectionary. And from its earliest days, FutureChurch has been at the forefront of reclaiming the Mary Magdalene’s central role in the Easter story and early Church as Apostle to the Apostles. And many activists and reformers have used our Easter Gospel Restoration Project materials to change the way their parishes celebrate Easter morning (it’s never too early to get started for next year!). But it sure is a blessing to have partners and allies at the pulpit in this work!
Happy Easter! May the joy and hope of the season abound in your heart and mind as we move forward in this work together!