A little over a month had elapsed since the day - Easter Day - that forever changed the world. A reporter for the Jerusalem Journal, a distant cousin of Mary Magdalene, sat down with Mary Magdalene, privately, in a interview that lasted about an hour. This is the unofficial version of that interview, which up to this time, has never been published.
Reporter: Mary, I’ve been told that you were the first to arrive at the empty tomb. What was the experience like?
Mary: Yes, I was the first to arrive at the tomb, but I wasn’t alone. It was very early, in fact it was still dark when I set foot to the tomb. I was too afraid to go by myself, so I asked several women in our group to come with me. When we got there, all of us became more afraid, at first, mostly because we didn’t expect, nor understand, what was going on. We all thought they stole Jesus’ body. And then we were alarmed by what appeared to be a spiritual being who actually spoke to us. We ran like hell! You would too! We ran to tell the disciples, but something happened on the way. I remembered how Jesus said that he would be crucified and raised on the third day. Then my fear turned to joy because I have always known Jesus to keep his promises. We were still confused, but underneath we all thought to ourselves “something wonderful was going on.” “Oh my God,” I thought to myself. “This is Big, Real Big.”
We ran to tell Jesus’ friends, especially Peter, the ringleader. Be we had to be careful to contain our joy because the whole group was still hiding out. They were also afraid of being caught. And then our joy was tempered when noone believed us! I mean how could you make something up like this? It was stranger than fiction. Someone said we were hysterical and I might have been. But they didn’t believe me - like I was crazy! I mean think about it. If it weren’t for us women noone would have ever heard the story! And then to be told “you’re crazy?!” There wasn’t so much as a “thank you”, even when they found out that the story was true.
And yet, I don’t worry about the need to receive the credit. Jesus taught me that. He taught me to do the right thing without calling attention to myself. He’s taught me a lot about life and about myself.
Reporter: After that Sunday morning experience, most of the stories I’ve heard are about the disciples, the men.
Mary: That’s not news. We’ve never had a voice, especially in religious circles. It goes deeper than that. It’s a rare exception when women are treated with respect. We’re actually considered “dirty” when we menstruate and shunned if we’re not Jewish. Someone started a rumor about me that I was a prostitute. What I’ve encountered since then by the “holier than thous” I won’t even mention. Sometimes I wish I were dead. I’m not proud of my history, but I’ve never been a prostitute. I’m not saying I’m an angel, I have a dark past and Jesus is the only rabbi I’ve encountered who not only listened to me, he forgave me too. Everyone else has been judgmental. Actually, Jesus taught me how to be loving - it is to be intentional about the well being of someone else, not attached to their behavior. That’s how Jesus loved me.
Reporter: That’s quite remarkable.
Mary: And its not only me. There’s a whole group of us that have followed Jesus everywhere because of the ways he has created our dignity, forgiven our past, and offered us a new future. We travel together, just like the disciples, but we’re never mentioned.
My best friend, Salome, was ridiculed for washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Jesus was the only one to acknowledge her generosity. There was a women in our group from Syro-Phoenicia, who had her daughter healed and her own life restored as the result of an encounter with Jesus. Noone else would even speak to her! I could go on and on about how many of us women have had our dignity restored, or self esteem renewed, our hopelessness altered as the result of our encounter with Jesus. We follow him to learn more but what bonds us together is our gratitude.
We don’t make the headlines because we’re women. Just like the Easter Story. But we don’t let that get in the way of our mission. We follow Jesus because we want to be there for people who have suffered the indignities we have suffered. Jesus went out of his way for us. Now it’s our turn to do it for others.
Stephen Rozelle has been the been the Priest-in-Charge of Christ Church, Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Diocese of Newark for the past two years, previously having flunked retirement.
Image: The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov (c. 1834)