I’m interrupting my series on mercy by this blog that is relevant in light of current events. God would certainly support women’s rights. According to Genesis, our God, who is neither male nor female, created women in his own image and likeness. Therefore, they are God’s children who share in God’s divinity. Women are men’s partners and have equal dignity. However, God apparently favors women! When God decided to come to earth as a human being, there were many options. God could have appeared as a grown man, a baby washed up on the shore, or the wealthy son of a king. Instead, the Son of God was conceived by a young village girl by the power of the Holy Spirit. As abolitionist Sojourner Truth pointed out in a speech, “Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him.” God’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the first person to hear the news that the Messiah was on his way.
Again, after Jesus rose from the dead with new life, in John’s Gospel it was a woman who first learned of the stupendous miracle. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her to relay the good news to his brothers, the apostles. Other Gospels report that not one, but two or more women were the first to encounter the risen Lord.
Jesus ignored the mores that prevailed in first-century Israel regarding women. At that time women along with children were considered property of men, as they still are in some countries. Women were illiterate and not obliged to pray or observe feasts as men did. In the Temple they were confined to the Court of Women. For a man to address a woman in public was unthinkable. Women could not testify in court or ordinarily inherit property. A man could easily divorce his wife for a crime as minor as a badly cooked meal. But the woman was not accorded the same recourse. An unmarried, pregnant woman would be stoned to death, but the man who impregnated her would go scot free.
The way Jesus treated women was unusual, actually radical, for a Jewish man. He spoke to them in public, as he did to the Samaritan woman of ill-repute. He taught women as disciples, as he did for Mary seated at his feet in Martha’s house. He healed them, including the woman with an issue of blood who dared to touch his robe. He brought a twelve-year-old girl back to life. Jesus told a parable about a woman who lost a coin, someone who was a God-figure, and he praised a widow who donated her few coins in the Temple. Jesus forgave sinful women and even had his mind changed by one desperate Canaanite woman who pleaded for her sick daughter. He showed women respect and love, and the women disciples reciprocated with love. They supported Jesus and the apostles financially and probably cooked their meals as they traveled with them. Women accompanied Jesus to his death on the hill of Calvary, while all but one of the male apostles fled.
May reading and pondering the Gospels, draw women to Jesus and make them modern disciples who, like St. Mary Magdalene, are on fire to spread the good news. And may it persuade men to follow Christ more closely by regarding and treating women as he did.
What woman has played an important role in your life? How?