Mary Magdala Community

“Appropriated” ©

Thoughts on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14, 2018

by Rev. Jim Ryan,

Parents are happy when their children’s behavior is appropriate to the occasion, when they respond to persons and social settings in an appropriate manner.  It shows that their children can exercise a control that is self-regulated and accomplished. On the other hand children and things that must be appropriated reveal the necessity of intervention, of being taken in tow.

Examples of things that are appropriated occur when funds must be appropriated by government bodies as well as when funds are appropriated by those who run households.  Something directs, intervenes, and controls when something else is appropriated.  Mostly this is a neutral sort of thing, this difference that one letter makes -in this case the “d” at the end of appropriate.  However, this neutrality must be monitored because an intervention can have either a positive or a negative purpose.

Take the case of the recent appropriated funds that the federal government took from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and applied them to the Department of Homeland Security.  The purpose of these switched appropriated funds was to build more cages and tent cities on our southern border to detain immigrants and to separate children from their parents (thus the picture of the child behind bars on the front of today’s Order of Service).  Remember that these funds were re-appropriated from the agency that does hurricane relief, funds taken at the height of hurricane season.

To be appropriated means that intervention has taken place.  And the purpose of the intervention can be, as I said, either a positive or a negative in the moral sense.

All of that gets me to this Sunday’s readings, in particular the 1st Reading from Wisdom (7:7-11) and the Gospel passage from Mark (10:17-30).  In light of this word “appropriated” let’s take a look at the ending of the Gospel (vss. 29-30).

“Jesus said, ‘I give you my word – there is no one who has left home, sisters or brothers, mother or father, children or fields, for me and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times as much in this present age – as many homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children and property – not without persecutions – and, in the age to come, everlasting life.’”

Apart from the fact that this passage shows much by way of intervention that this may or may not be the actual voice of Jesus, it is a matter of historical record that many were (maybe still are) the Vocation Directors who made a career using these 2 verses.  How many of us, for example, hear these verses and say to ourselves, “That’s for people who want to be priests and religious” and then don’t give a second thought to them?  Yet, while these verses may have inspired people to take on that lifestyle, they have a much deeper meaning.  These verses have been appropriated and not in the best way; appropriated in a way that removes this deeper challenge for all of us.

Which gets us to the Wisdom passage.  Let’s start with this feminine divine – the Goddess, Sophia.  In case you are even just a little uncomfortable with this reference to the goddess, this personification of God as feminine, “She who was with God” just as the Word was with God, then it could be that your faith has been appropriated.  Something has intervened in your relationship with God and not in a positive fashion, may I add.

Let’s look at it this way.  Our Mary of Magdala Community shares with many reform minded folks (going back over many centuries, actually) the desire to live the experience of those first generations of Jesus’ followers.  The fact is that in those early years the inclusive version of the application of Jesus’ teaching and of belief in the power of the Love which he showed was widespread.  Our notion, to be clear, of a formula that renders God into a Trinity and that depends on Greek philosophy’s idea of substance really wasn’t settled until more than 300 years after Jesus.  In other words our most likely understanding of God is an appropriated one.  The reason we may have a problem with the feminine divine, of praying to the goddess, is very likely because an  appropriated reality intervened.

In the year 33AD (or, CE) Jesus shared the view of God that was prominent among the Jewish people, a view that was accepted since the rise of the influence of those who wrote what came to be known as Wisdom Literature.  In short, God’s expression of Wisdom is the goddess.  And in the year 33 good Jews, including the followers of Jesus, believed in the God whose Spirit is breath (ruach) and whose expression is both Word (Son of God) and Wisdom (She who is).

How much more refreshing is this connection with God than the appropriated one that was the result of two Church Councils (Nicaea, 325 and Constantinople, 381) that were called and led by two Emperors who were primarily interested in power and in unity of the enforced variety.

First there’s Constantine who directed the Council of Nicaea, even participated in the discussions.  He’s the one who had his wife and oldest son murdered.  Then he waited until he was on his deathbed before he was baptized further deepening the superstitious belief that there’s always that possibility of committing that one unforgivable sin that only baptismal waters can wash away.

And then there’s Theodosius I who directed the Council of Constantinople.  His legacy created such a control on believers that one could argue he sowed the seed that centuries later brought about the Great Schism between the Churches of East and West.

All for what?  Surely we are all aware of the fact that the greatest killers of Christians are other Christians.  All the crusades against the heathen hordes – combined – don’t even come close to match the self-inflicted carnage which we Christians have perpetrated against ourselves.  I say, let’s put up with a few heretics.

I would like to conclude by pointing out the blessing of being a follower of Jesus.  When he invites you and me to engage in renunciation what he is really doing is challenging us to pursue Wisdom.  Think of it.  When you and I pursue Community, when you and I sit quietly with the purpose of losing, of disposing, all that I have and all that I am before God, when we hold our relationship to Christ as the bond of greatest treasure it is then we gain sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, yes even the property of togetherness and what we will share for its sake.

The Word of God and the Wisdom of God breathe the same Spirit – not in a trinitarian formula, but as relationships of she and he and us all.  How blessed it is to be appropriate and not appropriated.

         A Prayer 

Divine Feminine Prayer, by Rev. Maia Chrystine Nartoomid   (Source:

Mother of the Light, may you reign as a Goddess of Wisdom within my soul.  Be present for me now and in every moment of eternity.  Take my hand and lead me to the Birthing Light of God within me, for there shall I find my purpose in life revealed.

Mother, greet me at the door, embrace me in your loving countenance and smile gently upon me.  As your lost child, give me assurance that your grace is with me always.

All streams spring from the font of your heart.  Your eyes shine as the blue sea into my heart, and you forever find me worthy of your love.

In the spirit of this revelation, I offer to reveal myself fully to you, who is my Divine Feminine being, at all times and in all ways.    Amen.  


        Leader:  Praise to you, Holy Wisdom, she who was present at creation

and sustains it still.

All:         Christ the Word, circle us with knowledge.

Leader:  Praise the connection of your life in us and your counsel

that safeguards us.

All:         Christ the Just, circle us with mercy.

Leader:  Praise to You who makes us one with creation and commands us

to care for it.

All:         Christ the Eternal, circle us with your Spirit.

Presider:  May the Word and the Wisdom of the Creator guide and sustain us

in all time:the Creator who embodies the divine in humanity, now

and  forever.

All:           Amen    

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