Monthly Archives: July 2019

On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations…”

St. Mary MagdaleneApostle to the Apostles – forgiven despite hersordid reputation…” 

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Tizian 009.jpgNext Monday, July 22, is the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And as her Collect for the Day says, it was Jesus Christ Himself who “restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection.”  She did, and set an example for us all.

And she did all that despite what was possibly a sordid past – and what was in fact a really lousy reputation.

As to the confusion around that issue, “Mary” was an very common name at the time of Jesus.  This particular Mary was born in Magdala, where her name came from:  “Mary from Magdala,” or Magdalene.  It’s not clear where Magdala is, but most Christian scholars assume it’s “the place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya.”  (“Tower of the fishes.”)

I wrote about Mary in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” and Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles.”  The latter noted that Mary’s reputation as a “ho” probably came from a mix-up between Mary from Magdala and the “unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (And maybe from male disciples jealous of her showing courage when they didn’t?)

Mary Magdalene, the anointing sinner of Luke, and Mary of Bethany, who in John 11:1-2 also anoints Jesus’ feet, were long regarded as the same person.  Though Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels … none of the clear references to her indicate that she was a prostitute or notable for a sinful way of life, nor link her with Mary of Bethany.

Whatever the answer to that question, it’s clear that Mary Magdalene showed more courage and faith than the original 11 disciples, when push came to shove.  Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

The one indisputable fact seems to be that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus.  And one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.  Which may explain why some jealous male followers tried to sully her reputation.

There’s more in that post on Mary, including an explanation of how the word maudlin – a dramatically shortened version of Magdalene – came to mean “tearfully or weakly emotional.”

Then there’s the post Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” from last July, 2018.  It was an early post exploring the idea of “conservative” Christians playing it safe, which then led to the conclusion, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’”  (Based on the Parable of the talents from a July 2018 DOR, where the “wicked, lazy servant” – given one talent – is the functional equivalent of today’s “conservative Christian,” who feels his job in life is simply to “avoid sin.”) 

Which also brings up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant that all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations (Like in a recent response I got on Facebook.)  So one point is this:  Jesus came into the world to save sinners, not those who try to “follow all the rules and regulations.”  (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) 

That is, Jesus didn’t come into the world to preach to those people bent on following the letter of the law. (Pharisees and such.)  That was mostly because – as Paul noted in 2d Corinthians 3:6 – “The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”  In other words, if simply following all rules and regulations was enough, there would have been no need for Jesus to come here in the first place.

(Also, Jesus “cast out seven demons” from Mary, then she and other women supported Him and His disciples “out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3In a similar way, illegal immigrants – who arguably don’t follow all rules and regulations either – paid some 12 billion dollars into Social Security, but most won’t be able to collect a dime.  Trump’s false claim [about] undocumented immigrants.)

To repeat, in a recent Facebook interaction (with a Wall Supporter) I got the response that he was fine with LEGAL immigrants, as long as they followed “all the rules and regulations.”  Which sent me back to my Bible.  AND what it says about “following rules and regulations.” For example, Romans 3:10 said, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” (Citing Psalm 14:3, “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)

Then of course there’s JOHN 8:7, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then too there’s James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all.”  And that’s not to mention Deuteronomy 10:19, “You are to love the foreigner, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  (In the Christian Standard Bible, “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”)

See also Exodus 22:21, “You must not exploit or oppress a foreign resident, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  And Exodus 23:9, ““Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Not to mention Numbers 15:16, above left:  “The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”  (Mirrored in Leviticus 24:22, “You are to have the same standard of law for the foreign resident and the native; for I am the LORD your God.”

But the kicker came – I said on Facebook – when Jesus said the standard of justice we use against others is the same standard that He and God will apply to us. (Matthew 7:2.)

All of which is another way of saying if you can’t follow the rules and regulations – and the Bible says you can’t, which is why Jesus came the first place – you can’t reasonably expect “foreigners” to follow them either.  (Especially when they’re fleeing corruption, rape and murder.)

Then too, if you go around demanding that your fellow human beings have to abide by “all the rules and regulations” – and especially when seeking asylum from corruption, rape and murder – you can expect precious little mercy and compassion when your time comes.

For myself, I’m inclined to give all people a break and show some compassion. (While trying to find a fair, humane and reasonable solution to the problem, while not advocating “open borders.”)  That way I can expect a break from God when my time comes.  Because – as Napoleon once said – “Men are moved by two levers only:  fear and self interest.” 

Which is a dang good reason to read the Bible…

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Another man wanting to be “leader for life.”  (But who didn’t have bone spurs…)  

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary Magdalene – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “‘Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena’ (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.  In John 20:1–13, Mary Magdalene sees the risen Jesus alone and he tells her ‘Don’t touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my father.'”

The first image in the text is courtesy of,_1565).

Re:  “Jesus Christ Himself.”  The allusion is to John C.H. Lee, a “career US Army engineer, who rose to the rank of lieutenant general and commanded the Communications Zone in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.”  As one source put it,The biggest jerk in ETO was Lt. Gen. John C.H. Lee … commander of Services of Supply (SOS)…  Lee was a martinet who had an exalted opinion of himself.  He also had a strong religious fervor (Eisenhower compared him to Cromwell) that struck a wrong note with everyone…  He had what Bradley politely called ‘an unfortunate pomposity’ and was cordially hated.  Officers and men gave him a nickname based on his initials, J.C.H. — Jesus Christ Himself.”  (See World War II Profiteers.)  Note that Wikipedia had a slightly different take.  For example, “A man of strong religious convictions, he urged that African-Americans be integrated into what was then a segregated Army.”  As to his “retirement and honors:” 

Lee was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion, the II Polish Corps, the Italian Bersaglieri and several Alpini Regiments.  He was declared an honorary Citizen of Cherbourg in France, and Antwerp and Liege in Belgium, was given the school tie of Cheltenham College in England, and awarded an honorary doctor of law degree…  Lee was an Episcopalian and kept a Bible with him at all times.  [Like George Patton, who was also Episcopalian.]  He declined post-war invitations to serve as a corporate board executive, preferring to devote his life to service.  [Unlike some generals.]  In retirement he spent his last eleven years leading the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a lay organization of the Episcopal Church, as executive vice president from 1948 to 1950, and then as its president.

Re:  George Patton as Episcopalian.  See On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher.

Re: “Ho.”  The link is to Definition of ho – The Online Slang Dictionary.  It was the only one that offered both  adequate background and was “fit for family consumption.”  Plus it didn’t use “cookies.”

Re:  “Rules and regulations.”  I Googled “immigrants must follow rules” and got 53,600,000 results.

The Numbers 15:16 image is courtesy of Foreigners In That Land Egypt – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Napoleon – Wikipedia.  See also Top 10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes | Napoleon, which added, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

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“For many are called, but few are chosen…”

An early variation – of many more to come – on the meme proclaiming “the few, the proud…”

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In the last post – Wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul – I talked about returning from three weeks in Israel at the end of May.  Then – two weeks later – about making the transition from an 11-hour flight from Israel (and 26 hours without sleep) to getting ready for an 1,100 mile road trip up to Hadley, MA (To see my “favorite niece from Utah” get married.)

Now I’m back – and don’t have to worry about any more traveling.  That is, not until the end of August, when I fly to Lisbon to hike the Portuguese Camino.  (From Porto to Santiago de Compostela, as shown at right.)

Until then I can get back to meditating on the Daily Office Readings.  And I’ll start with the Gospel for last Sunday, June 7, which includes this, from Matthew 22:14:

For many are called, but few are chosen…”

Mainly because that passage ties in with a theory I talked about last May 2d:  That of the “many” who call themselves Christian, only a “few” avoid the trap of turning too conservative.

I used as an example the Apostle Peter, when Jesus walked on water.  It turned out that Peter was the only disciple who actually got his butt out of the boat and tried walking on water himself.  Meanwhile, the “conservative” disciples stayed safe and sound back in the boat:

Peter walking on the water is a prime example of one Christian – out of ten* – taking the more-difficult “spiritual path.”  The other nine or so “conservatives” took the safer, the easier, the more literal path of following Jesus.

Of course Peter fell flat on his face.  But in so doing he tested – and strengthened – his faith in Jesus.  See Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor.  Again, that “metaphor” was based on the story of Jesus walking on water (shown below left), which in turn was based on Matthew 14 (Starting at verse 22.)  The “high point” came at Matthew 14:29, when Jesus bid Peter to also “walk on water,” which he did.  (For awhile anyway.)

That is, if only for one brief shining moment, Peter walked on water himself.  Unfortunately he ended up panicking and falling flat on his face, but at least he tried!

Which to me illustrates the difference between a real Christian – like Peter – perfectly willing to fall on his face in an effort to emulate Jesus and His path, and the other disciples.  Those who stayed safe and sound in the boat, and represent the “many who are called,” but end up turning down Jesus’ invitation to both “live abundantly and do greater miracles” than He did.

Unfortunately, those “too-conservative Christians” seem to represent the vast majority of all who call themselves Christian today.  (At least in this country, and possibly up to 90 percent.)  But aside from short-changing themselves – they get half or less of what they could from the Bible – they’re both giving the rest of us a bad name and driving away potential new converts “in droves.”

For more on this passage see Matthew 22:14 Commentaries (Bible Hub).  The commentaries first note this passage is mirrored in Matthew 7:13-14:  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Also Matthew 20:16:  “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”

The commentaries also noted the “‘chosen’ are those who both accept the invitation and comply with its condition.”  Or conditions, including Paul’s caution that following the letter of the Gospel “gives death,” while only the law’s spirit gives life.  (2d Corinthians 3:6.) 

And that Jesus expects we Christians to eventually do even greater miracles than He did.  And that we can only do by reading the Bible with an open mind. (Luke 24:45.)

See also Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!”  Among other things, that post noted that in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus might add, ‘Go beyond the “fundamentals.’”  It also cited the web post How narrow is the narrow gate? –

The gist … is that “many will follow the broad road.”  And that’s what we have in America today.  The “many” are following the broad road of so-called “Conservative Christianity.”  (Which to me is a classic oxymoron, or more precisely, a contradiction in terms.)

That is, staying a “conservative Christian” – after boot-camp – means taking the easy way, because it’s so much easier to be a “literalist.”  You don’t have to think, you don’t have to take chances – like Peter did when he tried to walk on water – and you never have to worry about falling on your face.  But in plain words you also never truly “live” as a Christian, and you will certainly never, ever get to the point where you can perform greater miracles than Jesus.

“You want proof?  Check out the Wikipedia article on the Beatitudes:”

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result.  In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation

In other words, if Jesus had been a conservative, we would never have the Beatitudes (See again, On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor.)  Or Christianity itself…

And finally, see John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  Further, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers added in turn – of God – that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”

Which presents the challenge of being both highly spiritual and a devoted soldier in the “Army of Christ.”  (One benefit of which:  “As a good soldier in the Army of Christ, you do have the career option of expanding your horizons, and/or testing your limits.”  Just like Peter did.)

Which brings up Psalm 144:1Wikipedia said the Latin translation of 144:1 was influential in Western Christianity in the Middle Ages.  “With the development of the ideal of the knighthood in the 12th century, the verse came to be seen as a fitting prayer for the Christian warrior.”

It seems that “Great Minds Think Alike…”

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From “the few the proud” … the Soldiers (or Marines) of Christ.

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The upper image is courtesy of The Few Proud – Image Results, as distinct from The Few The Proud Marines – Image Results, from which I gleaned the lower image.  (For more on Apache Scouts, check the “meme” indent below.)  Other variations on the meme included “the few, the proud, the insane,” “the few, the proud, the emotional,” “the few, the proud, the trombones,” “the few, the proud, the” various family names, and “the few, the proud, the American coal miner,” not to mention “the few, the proud, the Braves,” shown below left.  For more on the Marine Corps version, see also Culture of the United States Marine Corps – WikipediaMarines are once again ‘The Few, The Proud,’ and Marine Corps may replace ‘The Few, The Proud’ as its recruiting slogan.”

Also note an internet meme – itself a variation of a plain old “meme” – is an activity, concept, catchphrase, or piece of media that spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet.  See Wikipedia, which added:

The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads[, while] the concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired. In 2013, Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as being a meme deliberately altered by human creativity…  Dawkins explained that Internet memes are thus a “hijacking of the original idea,” the very idea of a meme having mutated and evolved in this new direction.  Furthermore, Internet memes carry an additional property that ordinary memes do not:  Internet memes leave a footprint in the media through which they propagate (for example, social networks) that renders them traceable and analyzable

Re: Apache Scouts.  They were “part of the United States Army Indian Scouts.  Most of their service was during the Apache Wars, between 1849 and 1886, though the last scout retired in 1947.  [They] were the eyes and ears of the United States military and sometimes the cultural translators for the various Apache bands and the Americans.  Apache scouts also served in the Navajo War, the Yavapai War, the Mexican Border War and they saw stateside duty during World War II.”  See Wikipedia.  But see also Apache Prisoners of War | Native American Netroots, for a description of what happened to Apache prisoners, including those who “scouted” for the Army:

Chatto and about a dozen other Chiricahua Apache who had served as scouts for the army were summoned to Washington where they met with the Secretary of the Interior.  During their return trip to Arizona, their train was suddenly turned around and they were taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where they were held as prisoners…   383 men, women, and children, were taken by train from Arizona to their prison in Florida.  All of the windows in the train were closed and nailed shut. They were given buckets and cans to serve as chamber pots…  Overall, the stench in the train cars was unbearable.

Re:  “One disciple out of ten.”  I assume there were 11 other disciples in the boat, along with Peter, but that can’t be proven.  I Googled “how many disciples were in the boat when Jesus walked on water,” and got conflicting answers.  Most said the Bible doesn’t say, while a few say “there were 12.”  (The  Aivazovsky painting only shows four.)  But for purposes of “dumbing it down,” like Moses and Jesus, I’ve said Peter was “one of ten” in the boat.  That way we can come up with the easily-understood figure of Peter representing the 10% of “real” Christians who follow the “spiritual path.”  (And of the “too-literal, too-conservatives” constituting up to 90% of those calling themselves Christian.)

Re:  The Portuguese Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.  The map is from the Wikipedia article on Santiago de Compostela, showing Porto on the lower left.  My first Camino hike – in 2017 – started in Pamplona, near the border with France, spelled on the map as “Pampelune.”  For more on the “hike and bike” see “Hola! Buen Camino!!”  And also, from my companion blog, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts

The full Daily Office Readings for Sunday, July 7, 2019:  “AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113[;]  1 Samuel 14:36-45; Rom[ans] 5:1-11; Matt[hew] 22:1-14.”

Other thoughts from the commentaries for Matthew 22:14:

They were careless.  Multitudes perish for ever through mere carelessness, who show no direct aversion, but are careless as to their souls.  Also the business and profit of worldly employments hinder many in closing with the Savior.

Also, “The day is coming, when hypocrites will be called to account for all their presumptuous intruding into gospel ordinances, and usurpation of gospel privileges.”  Which adds up to what Sirach 5:5 says, “Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin.”  See also Wikipedia, which notes the Bible book Wisdom of Sirach – also called the Book of Ecclesiasticus (not Ecclesiastes) – “is a work of ethical teachings, from approximately 200 to 175 BCE, written by the Jewish scribe Ben Sira of Jerusalem…  Sirach is accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox.  The Anglican Church does not accept Sirach as proto-canonical, and says it should be read only ‘for example of life and instruction of manners…'”

Re:  Jesus walking on water.  Note that in the painting by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888), Peter has “walked” quite a distance from the safety of the boat, over some very choppy waves, and in fact seems much closer to Jesus than to the safety of the boat, where the “other” disciples sit and watch…

Re:  “A soldier of Christ.”  See On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ,” and/or A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

The lower image is courtesy of The Few The Proud Marines – Image Results.