From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Why all these women?

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 18, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Reflecting a wisdom gained from its centuries-old journey of faith, the Church has not allowed us to pack away our Christmas decorations immediately after Dec. 25, stuffing them in closets for another 364 days. With direct purpose our liturgical tradition extends the Christmas feast beyond one day so that we can be captured and touched by its profound mystery.

A season of celebration makes its point: it takes more than a birth to save. Jesus does not just arrive on Planet Earth and by his mere presence effect our salvation. ďBaby JesusĒ grows, matures, ministers, dies and rises ó an entire life which effects the gift of our salvation.

With equal wisdom, therefore, right after the Christmas season the Church begins a fresh trek of discipleship, directing us to follow once again the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples. The journey begins anew for any and all who would learn from him the Good News of Godís kingdom. If we have celebrated Christmas well, we will be equally well prepared for this refreshed journey of spiritual growth.

As we re-enter Ordinary Time on our liturgical calendar this year, we follow Jesus each day by the light of the Gospel according to the evangelist, Mark. The experts tell us that his was the first written Gospel ó and that it is not a biography as much as a catechetical instruction regarding the Man from Galilee and his role in our salvation.

Markís Gospel is fast-paced but, even after the first chapter of his narrative, a pattern already is apparent. Jesus announces the transforming presence of Godís Kingdom. Its power is manifest in the casting forth of demons and a variety of physical healings. Through his Son, the Word Incarnate, God clearly is re-establishing the original goodness of creation. Equally apparent is the pattern of response on the part of people to the Lordís work.

As Markís Gospel unfolds page by page the attention Jesus gives to women is of particular interest. They play a prominent role and, therefore, offer a lesson in Christian discipleship.

The poor widow with her mite; the woman toting the jar of ointment; the women at the cross; the women at the tomb. Why all these women?

The contemporary mind may be tempted into think that Jesus merely is siding with women, the underdogs of his time. Or that he is choosing sides in the feminist debate which so often is misrepresented nowadays. Or that he is championing the equality of women.

All of these perspectives, popular as they are with contemporary writers, actually are distant from Markís intention ó or, for that matter, from Jesus himself.

In Markís Gospel women are the measure of the extent to which the Gospel is proclaimed and how one should appropriately respond to it. Jesus announces the Good News to one and all. His Gospel is inclusive, but it is so by Godís choice. It is founded on a love deeper than one afforded by human rights or social status. Everyone is privileged to receive of Godís unconditional love and transforming grace mediated through Jesus.

It is true that in Jesusí day (as well as our own, unfortunately) women all too often were ostracized, abused and rejected. But arenít we all, at one time or another in our lives?

Perhaps this is one of the key points Mark makes in his Gospel account. We, the Gentiles, the distant people of the world, are brought very close in Christ. The Gospel is truly a free gift ó for one and all. And if this gift is for everyone to receive, it is there for our personal receiving, too. One of our greatest temptations is to think that Godís active and saving presence is a gift for someone else, and not us ó personally and individually. Entering into our personal realm of put-down, we always think someone else more deserving or more capable of dealing with Godís amazing grace. But why not us?

All those women in Markís Gospel are reminders of the emptiness with which we must receive the Good News ó as complete and pure gift. It is not earned, merited or deserved. It is not a collaborative effort under our control. It is grace.

Each of us, male or female, is included in Godís plan. Just as resistance to Godís love knows no gender, neither does its acceptance.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of St. Patrick and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Walla Walla. His latest book, Catholics Believe, has been released by Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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