by Mary Schneiders, OP
Today’s reading from Ephesians focuses on the infinite mercy, compassion and forgiveness of God as revealed through Jesus, in contrast to the first reading from Chronicles which images a God bent on vengeful punishment of a sinful, unfaithful people. But even in that reading, the underlying intent is to express God’s deep anguish over being rejected and abandoned by those whom God had chosen, cared for and nurtured. Would a woman have imaged God’s response to rejection in this way–sending an army to destroy the unfaithful Beloved? Turning to violence is, for most women, the very last resort, and for many, not an option or consideration at all. How might God, as woman, have responded to the infidelity of the Jewish people?
Paul, in Ephesians, reminds us that we are indeed precious to God, not because of anything we have done, but simply because of God’s love for us which is both the source of and the reason for our very existence. We are, each of us, God’s handiwork–a beautiful work of art. God loves us and delights in us. Because it is the very nature of love to be mutual and reciprocal, God desires from us a response to this love. But because of our sinfulness, we have often withheld, refused to respond to God’s love. Yet Jesus tells us that God does not condemn or seek to destroy us because of our sinfulness, our failure in love. Rather God continues to reach out to us, sending Jesus–not to punish or condemn us, but to save us, to restore our covenant relationship with God. The tragedy is that we have the terrible power to refuse even God’s love enfleshed in Jesus. Jesus continues to be enfleshed among us in our sisters and brothers–in the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the victims of violence, abuse and injustice. How do we respond to Jesus as we meet him daily in our sisters and brothers, especially in the “least of God’s people”?
How does our church respond to Jesus enfleshed in women? The institutional church acknowledges thatw omen with men make up the body of the Risen Christ: that we all, women and men, enflesh Christ for our world–except when it comes to official ministry in Christ’s name, and then only men qualify. Can this blatant discrimination stand up to the light of Christ? Does this unjust treatment of women classify as “deeds that have been done in God”?
Lent calls each of us and all of us to deep, genuine conversion, to stepping out of darkness into the light of God’s truth, to a renewal of our covenant relationship with God by correcting, restoring and healing our relationships with one another. For some of us, that may require relinquishing our power over others, recognizing the full and equal humanity of others with ourselves, treating others justly and with respect. For others of us, especially women, it may mean having the courage to believe that we are indeed God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, and to speak this truth to any who would deny our full humanity, who ignore our gifts or limit our ministries. The latter conversion is no less imperative than the former.
- What new insights did you gain from this Sunday’s scriptures and reflection?
* This reflection appeared in Why Do You Weep? Lent 1994, published by Pax Christi USA.