Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino


 Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Respecting Women


            Today’s Gospel reading speaks about the presence and importance of women in the Church.  The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet had been a sinner but became a close follower of the Lord.  The Gospel concluded that along with the Twelve, there were several women who accompanied Jesus including  Mary called the Magdalene, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and a certain Susanna.  The Acts of the Apostles relates that  two women from Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila, met up with the great missionary Apollos and helped him come to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ. 


            I am sure that we are all quite aware of the impact of women in our Church.  We have lived to see Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  Her work for the poorest of the poor has spread throughout the world.   Religious orders of sisters are gaining vocations in our country, particularly those orders that demand strict observance of their rules.  Every summer I give a week to ministry at a Life Teen Camp.  There are often young religious sisters assisting us.  It was wonderful to see the large number of girls at the camp, particularly those in college, the summer missionaries,  who inquire as to how they could enter religious life.   We don’t have to be confined to religious life to experience the impact of women in the Church.  Just look at our parish, and, for that matter, most parishes in our country.  Most of the ministries in our parish are led by devoted, fervent women.


            But many women are not treated properly.  Many women are not given the respect that is the natural right of all women.


            Many women suffer from abuse. Every day we hear about wives and girlfriends of celebrities and sports figures being assaulted.  This is just a small segment of society.  Abuse against women is rampant in our society. It has to stop.    It is the act of a coward for a man to use physical strength to hurt a woman.  Sadly, there are many cowards among us.  A number of years ago I was summoned for jury duty.  The case considered a man who was charged with assaulting his former wife.  During the jury selection process, one of the attorneys asked the women in the jury pool to stand up if they had been physically abused.  I was shocked. About two-thirds of the women stood.  How sad. There is no place for abuse in our society.  Men of God need to protect women from abuse.  By the way, I ended up being foreman of the jury.  All I can say is that guy was lucky that I’m against capital punishment.  


            Many women have been scarred throughout their lives by actions that were forced on them when they were children or teens. The number of girls who have kept a horrible secret to protect a relative or close family friend is mortifying.  As a priest I have experience many adults, men and women,  who suffer throughout their lives from the lingering scars of abuse.


            And then there is the abuse against women which has generated the most funds of any business on the internet.  That is the abuse of pornography. All men know that abuse is wrong, and, yet, so many men participate in abuse by paying the abusers, the pornographers. They think that they are not harming anyone, but they forget how advertising works on the internet.  Every click onto any site that has an advertisement is counted towards the amount of money the advertisers must pay the owner of the site.  More must be paid if someone clicks on an ad.  So, if you are looking for directions on how to fix your vacuum cleaner and you go to a site that has an ad for Sears, Sears is going to pay the owner of the site just for your being on the site, and more if you click onto the Sears ad.  People who think that they are doing no harm when they click onto a porn site are wrong.  They are actually paying the owners to exploit women.  They are participating in abuse.


            Most women  enter marriage as virgins.  There are many serious committed Catholic ladies among us who treasure their virginity.  And there are also many serious, committed Catholic men among us who likewise treasure their virginity. Their fidelity to Christ is challenged every day by a society that declares it normal for adults who are not married to engage in that which belongs to marriage.  This  is an insult to the dignity of men and women alike.  Let me share with you something that I tell the Teens, something that I also tell myself and other adults.  It is this: We are not animals.  We are sons and daughters of God. We have dignity. No one has the right to take that dignity from us by assuming that we have no choice other than to behave like animals, creatures that cannot control themselves.


            Genesis 2 presents the creation of women as a particular gift from God to men.  Women need to be honored.  Women need to be treasured.  And, as politically incorrect as this might sound, women need to be protected, protected from those individuals and elements of society that attack their dignity.


            And Jesus looked at the lady who washed his feet.  He didn’t see the sinner that others saw. He saw a woman, a woman seeking forgiveness. He saw a woman seeking God.  He saw a woman of God. And He treasured her.


            This week’s readings call us to respect our women. This is what Jesus demanded from Simon the Pharisee.  This is what Jesus demands from us.