Q. Today I was chatting with a friend who is a Buddhist. She does not have a deep knowledge of the Bible and she talked about Mary Magdalene as a great sinner and former prostitute who developed a romantic relationship with Jesus. I wanted to correct her, but I couldn’t find the right words. Can you help me? (Davenport, Iowa)
A. Your friend has perhaps been influenced by the novelist Dan Brown, who suggested in his book “The Da Vinci Code” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child by her.
Dan Brown is in the entertainment business. He is a writer of fiction, and this is what he has done. There is no historical basis for the scenario he has created. Mary of Magdala first appears in Luke’s Gospel as a woman from whom seven devils had been expelled.
There is no scriptural evidence to link her to the sinful woman mentioned a chapter earlier in Luke who, at the Pharisee’s house, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair.
What we know from the Gospels about Mary Magdalene is that she was a loyal disciple of Christ who, along with other women, helped to support his work financially. She witnessed his crucifixion and his burial, and she spoke with the risen Lord on Easter Sunday morning and reported his resurrection to the apostles.
Besides the lack of any hard evidence for his fanciful assertions, I would want to ask Brown this: If Mary Magdalene and Jesus really were married and had a child together, then why, from the cross on Good Friday, did Christ assign John to take care of his mother and make no provision for his “wife” and their “child?”
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A few weeks back, I responded to a man who wrote that he was bothered when he saw a family deliberately avoid the Communion line of a lay extraordinary minister of holy Communion in order to receive the host instead from a priest. I noted that it’s the same Eucharist no matter who distributes it, but that ultimately it’s the choice of the recipient and that it’s not worth worrying about. Perhaps no answer in this column has generated more response, and I thought you might enjoy (and perhaps be enlightened by) a couple of the letters I received.
Response A: “I am ‘one of those’ who prefer to receive holy Communion from the priest as opposed to a lay minister. When I received my first Communion in 1963, the sister who instructed me, whom I thought very highly of, told us that any time we meet a priest, we should look at his hands and acknowledge them as the hands that consecrate the body and blood of Christ and that they are the only hands that are permitted to touch the host.
“I know the rules have changed since then, and I am not dogmatic about this; so at a crowded Mass, I will just get in the nearest line. But if I can do so discreetly, I will move into the line for the priest. Holy Communion should be a very intimate experience. It is just you and Jesus. I think everyone is entitled to a little ‘privacy’ as to how they wish to conduct themselves. Frankly, I think the person who wrote to you complaining about this probably has too much time on his hands.” (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania)
Response B: “I have been receiving Communion for more than 70 years. When I do, I don’t think I should have to worry about what the congregation is thinking. I choose to take the host from the priest because: 1. I feel more spiritually bonded when I do that, 2. I pay the priest to give me Communion; it is part of his salary, and 3. The priest washes his fingers and thumbs before preparing the host. No one knows where the hands of the lay ministers have been.” (Missouri)