Collaborators of the Creator
For Christ, the essential part, “the good portion” is listening to his word and putting it into practice. He never divides humanity into men and women, into the powerful and servants, the learned or the ignorant. What he wants are men and women who have eyes to see and ears to hear in order to understand and to be brought back to their original vocation, which is to become sons and daughters of his Father. From the very first men and women were not placed in relation to each other but in relation to God. The Bible does not give us a theoretical frame or a theological structure to teach us what the specificities of the man and/or of the woman are. What the Bible suggests is that a creature is not defined in relation to another creature; a woman is not defined in comparison with a man, and vice versa. What they are and what they must live is understood by looking at who the Lord God is and at what he does for them.
We may then ask ourselves: how is the woman placed in relation to God? In reading the Gospel we are led to look carefully and to observe the way in which Jesus encounters men and women. With him there is no theology either of the man or of the woman but rather an enlightenment on a possible theology of encounter: that of a man or of several men with him, that of a woman or of various women with him, and finally that of Jesus’ encounter with men and women, namely, with us, now. How does Jesus encounter women in the Gospel? What happens that is unique and precious in these so different encounters? How does Jesus reveal to women their grace, their gift and their specificity? Who are women for Jesus? Who is Jesus for the woman and for women? Jesus’ meetings with women are exceptional, even fundamental moments, they do not offer us a learned study nor a theology or a list of expectations but solely the way in which Jesus reveals them to themselves: present, strong and intelligent (in the sense of inte-leggere, “to read within”). When Jesus is weary, when he is suffering, when he asks for a gesture of affection, when he dies and when he is raised, women are present, they are there. Moreover their indefectible presence is already one of the first feminine graces that Jesus highlights. Encounters of separation and of freedom: Jesus and his Mother. Jesus is born of a woman, it is banal to repeat it, but Jesus’ birth places the first woman of the Gospel in a special condition: that of the mother of her son and also that of the disciple. Nothing is said about Jesus’ relationship with his mother in terms of tenderness, of motherhood, or even less of affection. All the Gospels emphasize Jesus’ gradual detachment from his mother and vice versa.
In the Temple of Jerusalem at the
age of 12 Jesus takes his distance from his anxious mother, saying to her: “’How
is it that you seek me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’…
and his mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:49-51). The child
Jesus reproaches his mother and puts her in her place. She remains his mother
but accepts to leave him room, she ponders what she heard with her inner ears
and does not keep her son back. She enters into another “possession”, so to
speak, as it were, that of the Word that
builds . She abandons an attachment that might hinder both her son and herself.
She accepts that her son is fleeing from her, but turns his words and actions
over and over in her mind and protects him in a different way. She learns and
she teaches us freedom, that apprenticeship of the readiness of motherhood to
leave others free to make their decisions. Likewise, later, when Jesus is
teaching in the midst of a crowd sitting round him and he is told “Your mother
and your brothers are outside, asking for you”, he answers her: “Here are my
mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister,
and mother” (Mk 3:32-35). With his words Jesus cuts, prunes, overturns and
purifies every tie of possession. The encounter with Jesus opens, extends and
conveys the meaning of the relationship with him. Man or woman, he or she,
those who listen and root Jesus’ word in their own lives become mother and
brother; that is, they must bring their own relative into being, and show him
this bond of trust that goes beyond blood ties. Encounters that give life, that
bring to birth: in the New Testament, when the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus
to ask him to heal her daughter, Jesus admires her and says to her: “O woman,
great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Mt 15:28). These words
recur only once more in the same Gospel, when Jesus in Gethsemane says to his
Father: “Not as I will, but as you will” (26:39). What this Canaanite woman
wants, in other words life in fullness for her daughter, is what the Father
wants. In the same way, when Mary accepts to carry the Son of God in her womb,
she does so, knowing the cause, as a partner of the Father without informing
either her betrothed or her father. She brings forth her son to life and
thereby reveals to us one of the fundamental vocations of every woman; she is a
collaborator and a revealer of the Father and of his will. In Scripture there
are no narratives of women’s births (cf. Philippe Lefebvre,
Ce que dit
.The Virgin is still woman and mother: / in that we may read the sign of the new age. / The pagans on the Acropolis blame the Gospel for having disfigured the world, / and they mourn for beauty. / These men are blasphemers. / Christ’s message is not the signal for a rupture, / for an emancipation: / as though the elect of God, rejecting the law of the flesh, / could break the bonds that tie them to the destiny of their race, / and escape from the cosmic current in which they came to birth. / The man who hearkens to Christ’s summons is not called upon to exile love…. / On the contrary, it is his duty to remain essentially a man. / Thus he has an even greater need of me, to sensitize his powers, / and arouse his soul to a passion for the divine. / For the Saint, more than for any other man, / I am the maternal shadow leaning over the cradle – / and the radiant forms assumed by youth’s dreams – / and the deep-seated aspiration that passes through the heart… / like some undisputed alien force, / the mark, in each individual being / of Life’s axis”.
Born in France in 1959, Catherine Aubin is a Dominican of the Roman Congregation of San Domenico. After earning degrees in psychology and then in theology at the Institut Catholique of Paris, Aubin obtained a doctorate in spiritual theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome, where she teaches sacramental and spiritual theology. She is a lecturer at the Istituto di teologia della Vita Consacrata. She collaborates with Vatican Radio and has written books on spiritual anthropology in various languages.
St. Peter’s Square
Dec. 10, 2019
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