The Women in Jesus’ Life
- Reading I: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
- Resp. Ps.: Psalm 17:15
- Gospel: Luke 8:1-3
Why did Luke include a list of the women who followed Jesus around during his ministry? The reason is obvious, I think: he wanted to show that as women took an active role while Jesus was still with them, so they can still continue to have an active role now that Jesus is presiding over His community as Lord. In Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II gives a nice summary of how the presence of women in the life of the Church gives all a model of how the Church, the Bride of Christ, should respond to Him in love and generosity.
In the history of the Church, even from earliest times, there were side-by-side with men a number of women, for whom the response of the Bride to the Bridegroom’s redemptive love acquired full expressive force. First we see those women who had personally encountered Christ and followed him. After his departure, together with the Apostles, they "devoted themselves to prayer" in the Upper Room in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost. On that day the Holy Spirit spoke through "the sons and daughters" of the People of God, thus fulfilling the words of the prophet Joel (cf. Acts 2:17). These women, and others afterwards, played an active and important role in the life of the early Church, in building up from its foundations the first Christian community – and subsequent communities – through their own charisms and their varied service. The apostolic writings note their names, such as Phoebe, "a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae" (cf. Romans 16:1), Prisca with her husband Aquila (cf. 2 Timothy 4:19), Euodia and Syntyche (cf. Philippians 4:2), Mary, Tryphaena, Persis, and Tryphosa (cf. Romans 16:6,12). Saint Paul speaks of their "hard work" for Christ, and this hard work indicates the various fields of the Church’s apostolic service, beginning with the "domestic Church". For in the latter, "sincere faith" passes from the mother to her children and grandchildren, as was the case in the house of Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).
The same thing is repeated down the centuries, from one generation to the next, as the history of the Church demonstrates. By defending the dignity of women and their vocation, the Church has shown honour and gratitude for those women who – faithful to the Gospel – have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God. They are the holy martyrs, virgins, and mothers of families, who bravely bore witness to their faith and passed on the Church’s faith and tradition by bringing up their children in the spirit of the Gospel.
In every age and in every country we find many "perfect" women (cf. Proverbs 31:10) who, despite persecution, difficulties and discrimination, have shared in the Church’s mission. It suffices to mention: Monica, the mother of Augustine, Macrina, Olga of Kiev, Matilda of Tuscany, Hedwig of Silesia, Jadwiga of Cracow, Elizabeth of Thuringia, Birgitta of Sweden, Joan of Arc, Rose of Lima, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mary Ward.
The witness and the achievements of Christian women have had a significant impact on the life of the Church as well as of society. Even in the face of serious social discrimination, holy women have acted "freely", strengthened by their union with Christ. Such union and freedom rooted in God explain, for example, the great work of Saint Catherine of Siena in the life of the Church, and the work of Saint Teresa of Jesus in the monastic life.
In our own days too the Church is constantly enriched by the witness of the many women who fulfil their vocation to holiness. Holy women are an incarnation of the feminine ideal; they are also a model for all Christians, a model of the "sequela Christi", an example of how the Bride must respond with love to the love of the Bridegroom.
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