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Blessed are you among women PDF Print E-mail

11 August 2013: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own

Jesus was born in a society whose collective consciousness has been shaped for centuries by stereotypes about women. As he grew up, Jesus saw those stereotypes in his own family, among his friends, and in daily life. The Genesis story was written around the 9th century BC, where we read according the ancient story, God had created woman only as a helper for man. That was her destiny. But far from helping him, it was she who gave him the forbidden fruit to eat, thus provoking among the Jewish people a negative view of women as a dangerous source of temptation and sin. It was always wise to treat them with great caution and keep them submissive. That is what Jesus learned as a child. Power over women was strongly enforced by the rules of sexual purity.

Women were ritually impure during menstruation and in the aftermath of childbirth. No one could come near an impure woman. Whoever and whatever she touched was contaminated. This is probably the main reason women were excluded from priesthood, from full participation in worship, and from access to the most sacred areas of the temple. Women were a source of impurity. Jesus was surely warned about this as a child. Certainly Jesus sees women in a different way, understands them with compassion and trust. Jesus' actions critically challenge the customs, traditions and practices that oppress women. Everyone is created and loved by God. No one can use God's name to defend or justify the supremacy of men over women. Jesus forms a non patriarchal family where all are brothers and sisters. Further, the women's activity was a model of discipleship for the men because of their commitment, their attitude to service and their faithfulness to Jesus to the end, without betraying or abandoning him.

As Catholics we have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. It is part of our DNA as Catholics - we tend to have a high regard for Mary, the Mother of God. The familiar devotions like the Rosary, the prayers to the Virgin Mary under particular titles, sodalities and associations and pilgrimages to popular sites of her apparitions have helped us to grow in faith and community.

The Feast of the Assumption this week, celebrates Mary as our companion who feels the poverty and unworthiness of our humanity, yet called to face down our fears and take up the mission of Christ to remain faithful to the values of the kingdom through our relationships with our family, colleagues, friends at home, at work and in the wider spectrum of life. God will be faithful to us as we remain faithful to God and be affirmed in her prefigured joy that can be ours in the life to come.

Where do women stand in world religions? In Hebrew Scriptures, there we find more than a handful of prominent women, not least the four matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel; the prophetess Miriam and Deborah the judge, the Moabite convert, Ruth and Esther, the wife of the Persian monarch Ahasuerus, read each year at the festival of Purim, all these women played a significant role in Jewish tradition.

The Dalai Lama would be delighted if his successor were to be a woman; in Islam, men and women generally worship separately. Women are not usually allowed to lead mixed prayers. In Hinduism, while many female deities are worshipped, a woman's role is generally viewed somewhat traditionally as the key figure in helping the continuation of the family lineage.

As for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, in his impromptu press conference, on the papal plane returning from Rio on 28th July, repeated the definitive teaching of JPII that the door is closed to women's ordination. Nevertheless he said the Church needs a more profound theology of women, pointing out that Mary is more important than the Apostles. "It’s not enough to have altar girls, women readers, or women as President of Caritas... Women in the Church are more important than bishops and priests". As the Book of Wisdom puts it 'you made us glorious by calling us to you'. May our faith hope and love come together in the elegant theological line, 'To love another person is to see the face of God'.

Rescheduled Anointing Mass

Please be advised that the anointing mass that was postponed in July has now been rescheduled to Wednesday 25 September 2013.  Please see our calendar for further details of this and other events.