Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Real Mary and the ‘Gnostic’ Mary

Maia Morgenstern as Mary in The Passion of the Christ.

(Mary, the Mother of God, 2005: This homily was given on January 1, 2005 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2005]

On December 12th CNN aired a program entitled, “The Two Marys.” I’m sure some of you saw it. It was about our Blessed Mother and Mary Magdalene.

I didn’t watch the program—I didn’t have an hour of time to waste that night. But thankfully, because of the blessings of cyberspace, I was able to read a transcript of the show on CNN’s web site.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by what I read, but I won’t lie. It was typical anti-Catholic, anti-Christian rot, and it was almost completely predictable! I could have written part of the script myself!

I mention this today because the way CNN dealt with the “two Marys” the other night is fast becoming the standard media approach to Christian—and especially to Catholic—topics and issues.

Let me briefly outline that approach for you now, using this recent program as an example.

First, a little background information is required. . . .

In the early centuries of the Church, our Christian ancestors faced many different enemies. Christian converts from Judaism, for example, were often thrown out of their synagogues and treated like social outcasts, because they were thought to be heretics from the true Jewish faith. Christians in the Roman Empire were fed to the lions or killed in other creative ways by the Caesars for almost 3 centuries after the Lord’s death and resurrection. And at the same time members of the Church were opposed philosophically and intellectually by various groups of people known collectively as “the Gnostics.” (The title comes from the Greek word for knowledge.)

In the CNN program on the two Marys, Gnostic writings were cited in support of some bizarre, outlandish ideas about Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Mother.

I was not surprised; I fully expected that to happen. As I said a few moments ago these people are so predictable!

What upset me most, however, was that the narrator, Sigourney Weaver (obviously someone with lots of theological credentials!) gave the impression that these Gnostic writings were Christian.

But that’s a lie! They were not! And that is so important for us to understand, because these Gnostic texts are often presented in the media today as early Christian writings. And I believe that’s done in order to deceive true believers like you and me!

Or they are used by anti-Catholic novelists like Dan Brown! Most Christians don’t know this, but many of the “historical facts” he cites in his novel, “The DaVinci Code” are nothing more than anti-Christian lies found in ancient Gnostic literature.

Now what makes these Gnostic writings so useful in deceiving Christians is the fact that in many cases they have the names of biblical people attached to them (although they were NOT written by those people): the Gospel of Thomas (which inspired that anti-Catholic movie, “Stigmata”—do you remember it?); the Gospel of Mary Magdalene; the Gospel of Philip; the Apocalypse of Peter—and on and on the list goes.

So here’s what happens: CNN, Dan Brown, and others of that ilk refer to these Gnostic writings as if they are Christian sources, and then they quote from these documents to try to undermine the truths of the Catholic faith. And lots of Catholics fall for it! They buy into the deception, hook, line, and sinker!

But—I’ll say it again—these are not Christian texts! They were written by the ENEMIES of the Church!

Let me put it to you this way (and this is the bottom line): trying to learn about our Blessed Mother and the ancient Church from the Gnostics is like trying to learn about Catholicism today from the writings of Jack Chick! (Jack Chick is the publisher of those anti-Catholic cartoon tracts that your fundamentalist friends will hand you from time to time.)

So instead of getting the “real scoop” on Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Mother the other night, millions of Americans got the “ancient-Gnostic scoop” on these two women courtesy of actress-turned-theologian Sigourney Weaver and a number of liberal university professors who obviously missed their true calling!

We learned from them that Mary Magdalene was a first century working girl who probably ran Jesus’ ministry, and who might have been Jesus’ wife as well as the first pope. How’s that for a resume? But all these “facts” were later suppressed by evil men in the Church who conveniently turned her into a prostitute and blackened her name for centuries—until CNN and Dan Brown came along to vindicate her!

As for our Blessed Mother, she was really a first century feminist who was deeply involved in politics, and who probably offered direct assistance to people like the Zealots who were fighting against the Roman occupation of Palestine.

As for the virgin birth of Jesus, that was basically made up by Matthew and Luke. Many great leaders in the ancient world, like Alexander the Great, were thought to have had “special births,” so the gospel writers wanted to make sure Jesus had a special birth too!

Devotion to Mary was promoted in the early centuries by more evil men in the Church, not because Mary was really virtuous, but rather because she was a good “marketing tool” for Christianity. And now, in the modern world, Mary is becoming a great role model for female Protestant ministers.

Those are some of the messages viewers received who watched this CNN program.


Toward the end of the movie, “A Few Good Men,” Colonel Nathan Jessep (played so effectively by Jack Nicholson) shouts the now famous line, “You can’t handle the truth!”

I think that’s the real problem here: these contemporary enemies of the true faith can’t handle the truth!

They can’t deal with the simple truth that Mary Magdalene was pure and holy after her conversion.

They can’t deal with the truth that she wasn’t interested in sin or evil after Jesus cast 7 devils out of her.

They can’t deal with the truth that she was given the privilege of being the first to proclaim the resurrection because she had faithfully followed our Lord to the Cross. Unlike the apostles, she hadn’t run away.

And most of all, they can’t deal with the real Mary, the real Blessed Mother.

They can’t deal with the truth that Mary was a strong woman, and that her strength was rooted in her submission—her PERFECT submission—to God’s will. They think that kind of submission is a sign of weakness, but they’re wrong! It takes an inner strength to say Yes to God and No to evil like Mary did throughout her life. Giving in to temptation (which is what we all do on a daily basis) is the real sign of weakness.

They can’t deal with the truth that sex wasn’t the overriding urge of Mary’s life; consequently, they have to explain away her virginity (and Jesus’ miraculous birth).

They can’t deal with the truth that Mary didn’t hate men; they can’t deal with the truth that she was humble, and selfless, and that she didn’t think that politics was the most important aspect of human existence!

Because this is the case—because they can’t accept the truth of who our Blessed Mother really was—these people reject the true Mary and they create a diabolical counterfeit to take her place, with the help of some ancient Gnostic writings.

How sad!

But the amazing thing is, the real Mary still loves them, and watches over them, and prays for their conversions from her place in heaven—as she prays for the deepening conversion of all of us.

We need to pray for these men and women as well.

Because the real Mary is much more exciting—and much more inspiring—than the false Mary they’ve created in their minds.

It’s that real Mary who is honored on this New Year’s Day at St. Pius X Church in Westerly, and in Catholic churches throughout the world.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us—and pray especially for those who do not know (and do not care to know) the REAL you!