A Word or Two about Our Women and for Our Women
Today’s Gospel reading speaks about the presence and importance of women in the Church. The woman who anoints Jesus’ feet is no longer a sinner but a close follower of the Lord. The Gospel notes 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 scholar Apollos and taught him about Christ. We are all quite aware of the impact of women in our Church, particularly Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, as well as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Catherine and so many more women of God. We are all also aware that most of the ministries of our parish as well as most of the parishes in the United States are led by devoted, fervent women. But many of our woman are not treating properly. Many of our women are not given the respect that is the natural right of all women.
Many women suffer from abuse. Every day we read in the paper 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. We all know that it is the sign of a coward for a man to use his physical strength to hurt a woman, but there are many, many cowards among us. I will never forget a time that I was summoned for jury duty. The case considered a man who was charged with hitting 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 abused. About a two-thirds of the women present stood. How sad. . There is no place for physical abuse in our society, or in our Church. No woman has an obligation to put up with physical abuse.
Many women have been scarred throughout their lives by sexual abuse. The number of girls who have kept secret the actions of a relative or close family friend is mortifying. As a priest I have experience young newly weds who cannot be intimate due to the lingering scars of abuse. And then there is the secret, hidden abuse against women which, basically, has generated the most funds of any business on the internet. That is the abuse of pornography. All men know that sexual abuse is wrong, and yet, so many men participate in this abuse by paying the abusers, the pornographers.
We are all well aware of the wonderful efforts of our society to find a cure for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. However, if society is really serious about seeking cures for these and other female ailments, then it should consider allocating a tenth of the money spent on eye makeup for research to find cures.
A large number of our women, our young girls, enter a marriage as virgins. And yes, there are many serious committed young ladies among us who treasure their virginity. And there are also many serious, committed young men among us who likewise treasure their virginity. But, back to the women. Sadly, some of these girls become the victims of venereal disease, as a wedding gift from their new spouse. The concept that an unmarried man can "play around" with others before marriage is an insult and a physical attack on women in general and on the particular woman with whom he eventually seeks to make a life. Is there anyone out there telling young men that not only is it wrong for them to have sex outside of marriage, not only is it wrong for them to expose themselves to various sexual ailments, it is doubly wrong if they plan on sharing their sickness with others?
A final word about a sad situation that many of our young ladies suffer from: the trauma of miscarriage. We need to care for our women suffering miscarriages. As a man, I will never know what it is like to feel a child growing inside of me. I will never know what it is like to experience the transformation of my body to nurture a baby. So, how then can I possibly know what it is like to lose the baby? Only those who have had miscarriages can understand what the mother is going through. Therefore, it is so terribly wrong for me or for anyone to say to the mother something such as, "Well, the baby may not have lived long after birth," or "You're young, you'll have another baby," or "It was God's will." God does not will that evil happen in the world. Bad things result from a world that has chosen the death of materialism over the Lord of Life. The innocent suffer. Yes, maybe the girl will have another baby. But another baby will never replace this baby. A member of a family has died. The baby is unique and can never be replaced.
What can we say? What can I, as your pastor, do? What we can and must say to a family who has lost a child through miscarriage is the same as what we say if a family loses a child in an accident: "I grieve with you for your loss. I pray that God will give you peace. Your child will always be a member of your family, now at peace with God. Let your other children know that they have a brother or sister with the Lord, watching over them." When we hear of someone losing a baby, so many of us are all guilty of making believe that nothing happened. We act as though the pain of the loss has left with the baby. That is not a Christian way of acting. We need to support and care for our women suffering this trauma.
This Sunday I have written in the bulletin and on the web page about things which I would not present in a homily out of deference for the little children in the congregation. I feel a deep responsibility to call people to respect the women among us. Isn’t that what Jesus demanded from Simon the Pharisee?