Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mary of Bethany

The gospel this past Sunday was the story of Lazarus coming back from the dead. I didn't hear most of the homily that the seminarian at our parish gave (a combination of distracting kids and just plain wandering thoughts). But I tuned in for about ten seconds when he said something about Mary of Bethany being the same sinful woman who had washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and then (I think) something comparing the two incidents in Mary's life.

Now, frankly, I'm not a big fan of the theory that says that the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears was Mary of Bethany or Mary of Magdalene or both. It's ok, I guess, as speculation, but claiming it as fact is really stretching things.

However, I suddenly saw that making the two woman into the same person does something.

It makes Mary a two-story person.*

So many of the figures in the Bible, whether Old Testament or New, have only one story told about them. Jonah's story begins and ends with Ninevah. The blind man is healed. The lepers are healed. What happens to them ten years later? We don't know. Did God do anything significant in Naomi's life after she married Boaz and had a son? We don't know. The centurion whose had such great faith that his servant was healed - was that the limit of his encounter with God? We aren't told.

(Pictures In Church)

There's a few exceptions - Abraham, Moses, Jesus himself come to mind. Peter and Paul. But these are, generally, the "greats". It's easy to think of them as somehow being on a totally different plane than us mere mortals.

(Woman Weaving)

But Mary is different. This isn't even Mary the mother of God; this is just Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She might be special, but she's not out of reach.

And if she can have repeated significant encounters with God, then so can we.

Because sometimes it's easy to forget that. Sometimes it's easy to think of ourselves as one-story people. And if we do, if we think our encounter with God has come and gone, then we won't be looking out for all the new encounters with him that He has planned.

*Yes, I know that Mary already has two stories: the Lazarus story and the "Make her help me with the dishes" story. But I never had this insight before when thinking about those two stories, so this the way I'm writing it.

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