Some Thoughts on Jesus

Two Amazing Women in the Life of Christ



Two Women of Great Faith

By Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis

When we consider the life and ministry of Jesus, most people envision him walking through the hillside and the cities of Judea, fol­lowed by his disciples. “Jesus and the Twelve” is an expression commonly heard throughout time; and, for many, that represents the whole of his earthly mission.


These 12 men --- Simon (called Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Judas (son of James), Nathaniel (called Bartholomew), Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot -- were cho­sen by Christ to follow him, to become his disciples and, after his death, to spread the good news of the Gospel throughout their trav­els.


Twelve men who shared life with Jesus: who shared food with Je­sus; who shared that fateful last Passover Supper with Jesus; who guarded and defended Jesus; who stood by him through thick and thin; who were there while he hung nailed upon the cross, and who honored his body with ointments and fine linens while it lay within the tomb. Yes, Jesus and the Twelve Apostles; one reason why Ca­tholicism and Orthodoxy demand that only men be ordained into the priesthood. “Make disciples of the world and spread the Gospel” were the instructions given to the Twelve by the Resur­rected Christ.


It is a wonderful history, full of hope, daring, faith, miracles and challenge. But, is it the whole story? Today, we know it is not. To­day, even though we know there were twelve noted disciples of Christ, we also know that women played an integral role in his life and ministry.


For many Christians, it is hard to picture Jesus hanging around women, let alone confiding and entrusting them to the degree that he did with the chosen twelve. But, he did. Further­more, the two people who most likely had the greatest impact on Jesus were women: two women; two Mary's; Mary, his mother; and Mary Magdalene.


Mary, the mother of Jesus. When the angel Gabriel came to this simple woman, the course and the destiny of Human events changed forever. God had found favor in this simple woman of faith. God knew Mary had been brought up, trained, and dedicated by her Essence brothers and sisters just for this monumental announce­ment and pronouncement from Gabriel, a messenger of God. Gabriel knew that Mary would not shun the seemingly strange news which he was about to enunciate to her, even though, at first, it would perplex her.


The world was in a mess. People were wandering through the desert of life: lifeless; devoid of Spirit; lost in their faith; convinced that the God of Abraham was no more; aimlessly trying to grab hold of any little trinket that might give them some form of spiritual solace and succor. Political partisanship and nepotism were plaguing the Temple Hierarchy, and that Hierarchy was cemented in stone tablets, unable, through its own apathy and need to control, to minister to the needs of the people.


And then, one day, it happened. Gabriel, an Angel of the Lord, comes to this Jewish girl and proclaims to her: “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” He continues by saying: “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”


Mary responded to the angel: “How can this be?” Imagine how you would feel if such an event took place before your eyes and ears. You can almost feel her confusion. And the angel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over­shadow you.” Gabriel then continued by saying: “Your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.”


Oh my God, how can this be? Gabriel knew Mary's confusion and her concern. And his response is one which has echoed throughout history. His response reflects a reality which has uplifted Humanity since the dawn of time, and one which we must embrace when we, too, are confronted with the seemingly impossible tasks of life.


When Mary asked, in frustration: How can this be? Gabriel responded: “Nothing is impossible with God!”


If we do not place our faith and trust in God, the Father of the spirits, then how can we place faith in ourselves, the spirits?


Nothing is impossible with God! It was at that moment that Mary knew. Truth and reality had been revealed, and she was ready to receive and to accept. She was ready to go and to do! It was at that timeless moment in time that she responded to Gabriel's salutation in one of the most lovely, humble, and simple statements of faith found in Scripture. “Behold, the bondmaiden of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.”


Mary had a profound effect upon her son. She nurtured him and raised him to be a true and honorable messenger for the living Christ. Through her simple faith and dedication to God and God's promise made to her ancestral Nation, Mary laid before Jesus the foundation stones upon which would eventually be built a ministry of Cosmic proportions and impact.


Mary, mother of Jesus, was a beacon light of faith, trust, hope, love, nourishment, and strength; and she passed on each of these traits to her beloved son. That was, and still is, her legacy to Je­sus, the man, and Christ, the Spirit. And it can be the legacy which we all inherit from this remarkable woman, if we look at Mary, mother of Jesus, as a young Jewish maiden who, ultimately, became a channel of love and nurturing for men and women of all faiths. That’s the key: lift this woman up above her Jewish heritage and her Christian legacy and you touch the true essence of Mary.


And when Jesus was preaching to the people of Judea, endeavoring to shed God's Light into their hearts and souls; when Jesus was preaching the Gospel of Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness, an­other Mary entered his life.


Now, this Mary was not a mother. She was not a woman of honor. She was not a woman of any kind of position. She was not a woman of pride or of dignity. She was scorned by others, especially the eld­ers of the Temple. She was a sinner; some would say a prostitute or, at the very least, an adulteress. She was everything that Mary, mother of Jesus, was not.


What a contrast to the honor and integrity of his mother. But, the mother of Jesus demonstrated to her son kindness, love and, above all, forgiveness. And when the men of Judea were about to inflict punishment upon this wayward sinner, Jesus looked upon them and made a most profound suggestion as a means of initiating such punishment. He said: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Oh, how we all need to have these simple words etched within our hearts and souls: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”


Mary Magdalene followed Christ and become one of his most loyal apostles. Some say she understood Jesus more than the chosen twelve, and I tend to agree. There has been much speculation concerning the exact relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Personally, I think it went no further than Master-Disciple relationship, and that is more than sufficient.


Mary, Mother of Jesus, represents faith, love, hope, expectation, and the Advent of Light. Mary Magdalene represents healing, re­birth, and transformation through the power of loving forgiveness.


Both were there at the time of his crucifixion, and both witnessed the wonder and the mystery of the empty tomb. And who else but the woman whose life was transformed from sinner to disciple would the resurrected Christ choose first to show himself? It could only be Mary Magdalene, whose life represented everything which Jesus was sent to earth to help us accomplish within our own lives. She was, truly, reborn of the Spirit.


The Bible is full of angelic and Spirit visitation, most of which beckon people to arise, go out, and do something . . . witness for what God and Spirit show us. Throughout history, Spirit has come to us, in times of trouble and frustration, to offer us hope, guidance, and a helping hand in our travels. And this time is no different.


The annunciations are as real and alive, today, as they were when Gabriel visited Mary.


Whether it be an angel from the Lord or a loved-one in Spirit, let us be grateful for all that Spirit has done for us! Let us praise God and His Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Life which He infuses into our spirits! Regardless of faith, let us be thankful for the gift of Jesus Christ, for it a gift for all Humanity! It began with the annunciations. It continues with the annunciations. It began with an Old Testament. It continues with a New Tes­tament.


There are three annunciations that are of profound import in the New Testament:


One: When Angel Gabriel enunciated to Mary “Hail, favored one; the Lord is with you” and revealed that she was to be the bearer of the Christ child.


Two: When Simeon, as the Christ child was being taken from the Temple, after being presented to the Lord, proclaimed, “Lord, let your servant depart in peace, according to your Word, for my eyes have seen your sal­vation which You have prepared before all people.”


Three: Before the empty tomb, when Mary Magdalene proclaimed to Heaven and Earth: “He is Risen!”


I would like to share a comment made by a minister of the Christian Right - which, in my humble opinion, is nether Christian nor Right. You may have heard before, as he spoke of the September 11th tragedy:


“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively try­ing to make that an alternative lifestyle had much to do with this tragedy. I point the finger in all their faces and say, ‘you helped this happen.’”


Is this what Jesus taught us? Is this what these great annunciations heralded in for the world? Is this the healing, grace, and for­giveness reflected within the life of Mary Magdalene? Is this stigma, which has been cut so deeply into the soul of Jesus Christ, to be borne by him for eternity?


We need to look around us, today, as we struggle through the very same issues which our Jewish brothers and sisters struggled over 20 centuries ago. And in that looking, we need to hear the voice of God, the voice of Christ, and the voice of Spirit, as they endeavor to annunciate to the world yet another proclamation of joy, hope, life eternal, and salvation for all people.


We cannot and must not allow the din of war to overshadow the good news of peace. We cannot and must not allow the shadows of ignorance to darken the light of the Soul. We cannot and must not allow the seemingly endless proclamations of evil and divine damnation to harden our hearts and poison our minds. For if we do, the poison of prejudice will, surely, be our downfall.


Let us honor and remember Jesus, his beloved mother, Mary, and his companion and Disciple, Mary Magdalene. Two Mary's. Two souls from totally opposite ends of life and society came together and, through the love and salvation of faith and for­giveness, they joined forces with a Messiah in a truly divine minis­try.


In many ways, the two Mary's in the life of our brother, Jesus, rep­resent the two aspects of our journey. Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene reside within each one of us. But the lov­ing goodness, mercy, and forgiveness of God can surely transform and heal us all, to the point where once we may have blocked the Light of the Spirit, we can now become part of that Light and that Light part of us.


It was Mary, Mother of Jesus, who said: “Behold, the bondmaiden of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.”


And it was Mary Magdalene who proclaimed to the whole of Creation: “He is risen!”


What proclamations!


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