Rediscovering Miriam (part 3)

He said that whenever and wherever his good news would be shared, what I did would also be remembered and told….

Shared by Jonathan Aquino on Flickr.

Shared by Jonathan Aquino on Flickr.

Maybe it was that experience – that understanding – that convinced me to stay beside him a few days later. Many of his other disciples had struggled to understand his teaching, especially when he talked about his impending death. And when things didn’t make sense, they lost hope. They became fearful, and they ran off.

But I – I remained at the cross. There were several of us women and John who remained. We watched right until the bitter end. We heard him say his final words….breathe his final breaths.

My people’s tradition is to anoint bodies – like I had just done a few days earlier. And my people also clean and wrap the dead, and for the three days following death, we visit the tomb. As soon as Shabbat ended that week, I went to the market to purchase ointment so I could anoint him even more, and then quickly returned to tomb.

It was a mile-and-half hike up the hill to the cemetery. The cemetery was in the Abu Tor region, located outside Jerusalem. There the hill is dotted with burial caves of the wealthy. Caiphus, the high priest, was buried there. It was on that hill that Joseph of Arimathea had a cave he allowed Jesus’ body to be laid in. As I hiked up that hill, full of sorrow and confusion, I reflected on the stories I had heard numerous times. Stories of how Jesus’ life began in a borrowed cave in hills surrounding Bethlehem. And now it seemed to have come full-circle. Now at its end, once again there was a borrowed cave…

There were 3 of us women who hiked up that long hill. It was not a pleasurable walk, but after all that Jesus had done for us – and in usit was the least we could do – to minister to his body, to give him a proper burial….We never could have anticipated what we actually saw in the place where Jesus’ body had once lain, protected by a giant stone. The stone had been rolled away. And the tomb – it was empty – except for the linen cloths and an angel.

Thinking back now to the scene, first hearing from the angel, and then from the risen Christ himself….. How can I explain that scene? That experience? Perhaps through another story – perhaps you know it too. The disciples spoke often of a strange, astonishing, awe-filled experience when three of them saw Jesus somehow changed….transfigured…displayed in his glory.

So it was with us – a circle of three, the presence of God, the astonishment and wonder and awe. In the days and weeks following that encounter, I was thankful to have experienced it in community. Every time I questioned myself, what I had seen and what I had heard – I had others who confirmed the experience. And we knew – without a doubt – that we were not dreaming – we were not imagining. It was even more than that though.

Shared on Flickr by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Shared on Flickr by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Unlike those Jesus called “his disciples” who were confused when they encountered Jesus – who disbelieved when we told them what we had seen – we knew – we understood the significance. We saw the angel – we heard him speak. We saw Jesus, and it all made sense. Oh, it’s true – at first I didn’t recognize him. But when he called my name….I knew it was him. And in that very moment, I remembered Jesus teaching: “The sheep know when their shepherd calls them by name.” I knew my shepherd when he called my name.

That encounter went far beyond just seeing and hearing Jesus. It was more than understanding the resurrection. That meeting changed the rest of my entire life. I was commissioned to go and tell others – me!?! The poor peasant woman from Migdal. The woman fully, totally possessed by seven demons. The one whose exorcism proved the Kingdom of God was near. The one whose brave act of anointing Jesus with expensive perfume was honored.

It was Paul who later claimed his status as an apostle, saying, “I have seen the Lord.” That must have sounded familiar to Jesus’ followers, for that is precisely what I also had said. “I have seen the Lord!”

I am an apostle of the Lord. I was among other women apostles like Junia – Junia who was imprisoned for her faith, who came to faith in Jesus long before Paul, who had the honor of being called prominent among the apostles.

“I have seen the Lord!” He has touched my heart and my life. He has called me to be part of bringing the Kingdom, of proclaiming his resurrection. Christ is risen – He has risen indeed! Holy is the Lord our God! This is the message he told me to proclaim. And as I do so, I pray I may be found faithful!

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This is the final part of a 3-part, first-person series on Mary Magdalene (read Part 1 and Part 2 here). While creative license has been taken with some of the details of the account, much of what is included in the series is factual. Mary Magdalene’s true story – rather than the fanciful tales of prostitution, holy bloodlines, and secret marriages – is fascinating and valuable itself. As the Church, we need to rediscover our history, particularly of great women who have been sidelined or mythologized, but who were once known as the “Apostle to the Apostles”! 

  • Jay Plank

    Thank you, Kristen, for this account of this remarkable woman. She indeed is remembered and known by untold millions because of her life and example.