Lessons From A Reliquary
I saw quite a few reliquaries on my recent trip to various ports of call around Italy, but the one that really got my attention had a piece of bone from one of Mary Magdalene's fingers.
I really worked on that first sentence.
So you might be wondering a couple of things at this point.
First, you might be wondering what, in fact, is a reliquary. You also might be wondering why Mary Magdalene's finger bone would be of interest to me, and subsequently to this Devo.
Let me begin by addressing the reliquary question. A reliquary is quite simply a container for holy relics.
And in the Christian tradition holy relics can mean a number of things: the bones and drops of blood of saints, pieces of the "True Cross," clothing items from the Apostles, and all manner of anything else you can think of that could be traced back to some sort of Christ-connected origin.
When I was in the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi, Italy I got the chance to see a collection of reliquaries that included the aforementioned one containing Mary Magdalene's finger bone.
I also saw the reliquary containing the back of St. Andrew's skull. More on that in a moment.
Mary Magdalene's finger bone was relegated to a simple gold box with a small statue of her on top. By contrast, Andrew's skull was in a huge reliquary that was built into the cathedral's main altar.
This got me thinking about how in Gnostic text entitled The Gospel of Mary, which I'd recently read for my Easter sermon.
Mary Magdalene comes to the disciples with a commandment she said was from Jesus herself. She told the disciples that Jesus had told her that his followers should simply focus on his teachings, and not add anything else to them.
Andrew was one of the Apostles who resisted this, and who questioned why Jesus would have had a woman preach to them. The other disciples chide Andrew, but there's no real sign of repentance from him.
That particular Gospel ended up not making the cut when it was being decided by the ancient church fathers (And Emperor Constantine) which books would make into the New Testament.
And since it's a funny old world. Andrew gets a cathedral, and Mary gets a box.
And, as it turns out, we should have all listened to Mary. Because Jesus' teachings, life, and ministry are pretty much all that we need by way of example and instruction on how we should live.
Imagine what Christianity could be like if those of us who claim to follow Jesus, actually did follow Jesus... and only Jesus. Imagine if we did this instead of chasing after politicians to cure all our ills, or trying to do it all on our own.
Imagine if we focused on loving, including, healing, restoring, and making all things new. Imagine if we laid down all that we have--even our lives--for the sake of God's kingdom here on earth.
That's the kind of thing that could change the world. That's some Resurrection-quality thinking, in my book.
That's how Jesus would have wanted things to go.
May you leave behind the elaborate reliquaries you've created to contain the bones of all the unhelpful traditions, rules, and regulations that have never really moved you to become the person God longs for you to be.
May you yearn for simpler reminders, and a more focused way of living with Jesus at the center of it all.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.