(link fixed, re-post)
There was a time when women understood the Christianity to be a source of liberation of person. This simple blog is not addressing the decision making, leadership changes of which there were several. My focus today is the personal liberation of what it means to have dignity as a woman. Even as captured through the narrative of men we can see in the Apostolic Age the prominence of women in the Church. An example would be addressing the Hellenist complaint against the Hebrews regarding the daily distribution of bread. It seems their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1).
By the time of the Edict
Between the time of the Apostolic Age and the Edict of Milan (Constantine, 313) the growth of the Christian faith was astounding. Into every part of the Empire this new religion took hold and grew. This growth was by the widespread acceptance of the faith by pagan women. They saw in this new faith a most certain liberation that offered safety and stability to their families.
Children, Medicine, Community
Pagan women observed that children were accepted, male and female. The infanticide of female babies was not a part of Christian beliefs. Men accepted the idea of one wife for life as the norm for Christian families. Christian doctors did not abandon the village when famine or disease came upon the people. The community was based on mutual support at a more profound level which we describe as the imitation of God’s love. Wives were to be cherished as if the Bride of Christ. Across the empire women were being baptized and insisting upon their dignity as offered by the Church. Life, health, family and community based on Christ’s love. They would marry only churched Christian men. The men followed, to quote sacred Scripture 1 King 2:2, to ‘be a man’.
Jesus Set the Standard
The readings this week bring light to Jesus’ explicit reordering and restoration of the dignity of women.
Please read the story for these notes to make sense.
Jairus loves his daughter. Jairus loves his wife. Jesus restores his daughter to health (talitha koum). Jesus restores husband and wife as participants in the divine restoration but in the prayer and in the giving her something to eat. A pagan woman would quickly recognize this dignity far above what her secular or pagan society offers family life. This story was told again and again. Women are in the sanctuary, so to speak.
The woman afflicted for 12 years (corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel). Her hemorrhage was so painful. Her very womanhood was wounded and beyond ordinary medical care. This medical and spiritual problem is specific to women. It is unique to women and we men stand in helplessness. But her help comes from the Lord. Instantly by a simple touch her flow stopped and she was healed. We men are ordered to and given the responsibility to heal and embrace (touch) the women among us. If you can understand, since we actually do not know her age, we can assume the fullness of her recovery includes her ability to have children. It is the Christian soul who desires complete healing for women.
The Rejection at Nazareth event. As is often the case in sacred Scripture the holiness is enshrined in the negativity of men. I guess it is a bit like the background matting for a picture frame. Rejecting Jesus and the amazing deeds and wisdom they use the example of ‘Isn’t he the son of Mary… and Are not his sisters here with us? (Mk 6:3). They said this because they took offense at him. And yet, Jesus elevates his female relations by way of their negative thoughts in his reply.
A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house (Mk 6:4).
Jesus is absolutely indentifying with his Mother Mary and his sisters. He is saying that you men are failing to see the dignity and honor I, the prophet, see in my Mother and Sisters. Christian men see this as an imperative of the baptized soul. Disregard of women blocks the acceptance of the amazing deeds and wisdom of Jesus.
Shake It Up
And so the pagan women of the early ages were aware of the disregard they suffered. It would be easy to see I suppose just by way of seeing these new communities be created and grow. No wonder by the time of the Edict of Milan the Empire was already more than 50% Christian. They shook off the dust.
Whatever place does not welcome you… leave… shake the dust off your feet as testimony against them… and preach repentance (Mk 6:11-12)
Shaking off the dust is a symbolic gesture. When disciples gathered around their teacher they would follow everywhere with him. As they traveled the dust of the road would puff up and land upon your own robes. To shake off the dust is for the disciple to reject the teachings of the master and find a better way.
Women – shake off the pagan teachings. Be truly liberated.
Peace be with you.
Deacon Gerry Palermo