Catholic homily for Thursday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: WHAT A WOMAN CAN DO!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Thursday February 11 2021
* Gen 2 : 18 – 25, Mk 7 : 24 – 30.
It is difficult to figure out how the position and dignity of women became lowered in mid Eastern and pagan cultures after such beautiful beginnings we read from the Bible. The words of Adam in today’s 1st reading confers equal ontological dignity to the woman : ‘This, at last is the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’. Equality, according to Aristotle, consists in the same treatment of similar persons. If man and woman share the same human nature, same rights and privileges, same destiny, how come that the concept of equality of man woman has become a mortuary in some cultures like the whole of Africa? Perhaps some Christian chauvinists would like to harp on the argument that the woman was made only from the rib of the man and therefore should be subordinate or even go as far as buttressing the argument that the original sin was totally the idea of the woman and so the woman must continue to suffer the punishment of being dominated by the man, Gen 3 : 16.
For me, feminism and chauvinism are pockets of eccentric ideologies bereft of sound theological understanding of the ontological nature of human sexuality. Two important statements need to be understood from today’s 1st reading :
1. IT IS NOT GOOD THAT THE MAN SHOULD BE ALONE : Theologically and psychologically speaking, this statement has affirmed the complementarity of human sexuality. The man needs the woman as much as the woman needs the man. None is subordinate to the other.
2. THE BONE OF MY BONES AND FLESH OF MY FLESH : Many argue that if woman was taken out of the man then she must be the weaker/ inferior sex. For me, she could look weaker physically but actually be stronger psychologically. Some argue that man and woman are equal in dignity but should not be equal in authority. For me, I would say ‘yes’ but not in all contexts. Actually, every administrative oganigram needs a superordinate. The Christian family, as one of such units have hitherto conferred leadership roles to husbands, all things being equal. But this role must remain complimentary. There is no need for all these wars about the maleness of the Catholic priesthood/ ecclesiastical leadership or even the gender imbalance in secular leadership. The understanding about what women can do is gradually unfolding and is part of the package of Christian liberation.
Today’s gospel miracle brings out one of the strongest psychological strengths which women have. The manner with which Christ handled women all through the scriptures brought out the best in them to the extent that at calvary and on the resurrection morning, their roles became inevitable in announcing the most important message that changed the fate of humanity – THAT JESUS IS RISEN. The Syrophoenician woman was dramatically well handled by Jesus. Jesus knew the woman had both a strong and resilient faith. He just needed to pull her beyond her sociological barriers. Since the Gentiles were treated like dogs by the Jews and excluded from God’s benevolence, He raised the question of throwing bread to the dogs which the woman very smartly tackled with psychological strength and maturity. Most men may not have taken what looked like an insult here. Some biblical scholars call it the ‘miracle with a smile’ because the woman read the body language of Jesus and responded with wit and faith. She could not take ‘No’ for an answer to her prayers.
Women of faith in the scriptures like Judith, Esther, Ruth, Mary, etc all could not take ‘No’ for an answer. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example wanted him to do the miracle of turning water into wine at Cana, she wasn’t ready to take ‘No’ for an answer, Jn 2 : 1 – 11. Yet they always have the capacity to accept and resign to the will of God when the situation arises. I think modern day Christianity should begin to tap more into the mysteries behind human sexuality and be able to use both men and women more approprivately in Church services according to their different peculiar abilities. Jesus was visibly out to dismantle all segregational barriers within the threshold of humanity ; between Jews and Gentiles, Men and Women, Freeborn and Slaves, etc. Every tribe, nation and sex is equal in dignity before God and can receive equal spiritual favours. We only need to gradually see what each person/ sex would be able to do at a given historical and sociological context. We don’t need to quarrel about that.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO.