Women in the Pentecost Gospel

A Maronite lesson in the Church we are called to Be

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During Pentecost we also hear about the women who were accompanying Jesus, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Susanna, and many others.Photo: Ted. Flickr, CC by-SA 2.0

Pentecost marks the birth of the Church and throughout the season we hear Gospels and Epistles with messages to the Church.

Later in the Maronite Pentecost lectionary, we will also hear a series of Gospels where central characters are women. While the Gospels speak to each of us individually about the kind of person we ought to be, these Gospels are chosen to speak to us collectively about the Church we are called to be, a Church that is called to decrease in order to increase.

The first of the Gospels (Matthew 15:21-28), begins with Jesus leaving “that place” and going to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  The place Jesus was leaving was where he had been challenged by the Pharisees and teachers of the law about the breaking of the traditions of the elders (Matthew 15:1). The leaders and experts of the Church had become burdened and preoccupied with the laws.

It is against this exchange, that we are introduced to the Canaanite woman, a foreigner. The Canaanite woman’s call to Jesus demonstrates immediately that she knew who he was. She recognised he is Lord, the Son of David and that he is the one that can heal her demon-possessed daughter, who is suffering terribly. The disciples tell Jesus to send the woman away and Jesus, in what can only be regarded a humiliating rebuke, tells the woman that he was sent only for the lost sheep of Israel.

When our faith is challenged, and we are humiliated, our instinct is to react and demand justice for ourselves. However, when the Canaanite woman was compared to a dog and humiliated, her concern remained for her daughter’s healing. She knew that Christ was the path to that healing, and she continued to beg him.

In the season of Pentecost, the Canaanite woman becomes an example to us all about the Church we are called to be. The Canaanite woman is not preoccupied with the law, rather she lives the law and with that understanding approaches Christ in love, faith and humility.

With so much happening in our world today, it is easy for us to consider ourselves persecuted and react with anger and demand justice for ourselves, forgetting those who are suffering terribly. It is easier to speak of the “rules” like the Pharisees and demand that they not be broken. The Canaanite woman does not react this way.  Instead, she unravels her beauty in humility and meekness and becomes an example of faith. She kneels before Christ and begs him, not for herself, but for her daughter who needs healing. To be the Canaanite woman is counter intuitive to how we think the Church should conduct herself in society. Against our intuition, we as a Church need to have faith that our example of love and humility can lead others to be healed by Christ.

During Pentecost we also hear the Gospel of Luke 8:1-15 and about the women who were accompanying Jesus, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Susanna ‘..and many others who provided for them out of their resources.’

These were women who were healed by Christ and are now devoting their resources to accompany Christ, preaching, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

The mission of the Church is a central theme in Pentecost. The Church is called to devote its resources to preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The women in this Gospel are testimony to the fact that Christ came for all of our healing and salvation.

In the season of Pentecost, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit has been sent to give us the wisdom to take the message of redemption to the world. As a Church, the message is simple, Christ came for our healing and our salvation and like the women who were healed, we as a Church also stand witness and are called to proclaim the good news.

On the fourteenth Sunday of Pentecost, we hear the story of Mary and Martha. Mary leaves everything to be with Christ. Like the other Gospels, Luke 10:38-42 opens with Christ, accompanied by others, continuing a journey.

Martha like the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel is burdened, “anxious and worried about many things”, even though Christ came to lift that burden and fulfil the law.

The message to us as a Church, is that we must avoid getting caught up in anxiety for the future, of losing our rights and way of life and instead trust God to provide. The Church is much more than an ideology. When as a Church, we become disciples of the ideology and are consumed by anxiety, we forget the very essence of who we are. Christ is at our centre and like Mary, all we need is to be with Him.

The Maronite Pentecost lectionary gives as a typology of women to inspire us to the Church we are called to be, a Church of faith, love and humility. A Church on a missionary journey who is accompanied and healed by Christ himself.