In Jesus’ times, no one among the poor was poorer than a widow, a woman without a man, hence without either rights or protection. The world and the society in which Jesus lived and moved were basically structured on a patriarchal model; women were invisible in society with the kind of invisibility typical of a legal status of minority, indeed of exclusion. The originality of Christ’s behaviour must be integrated into this historical truth. In fact, Jesus saw, looked, noted and connected his life with the lives of the women who followed him, loved him and accompanied him even to his death. Whereas the gaze of Simon the Pharisee (cf. Lk 7:36) – as Maria dell’Orto wrote – saw and judged, scrutinized and condemned, excluding people, Christ’s gaze set people on their feet, identified and recognized them. In so doing he invited all, both women and men, to discernment, to asking themselves questions and to communion. In this perspective a panoramic view of Christian history leads one to consider those prophetic and charismatic female figures who, by their personal authority, in turbulent centuries, contributed to evangelizing a still pagan world and/or a Church which was hostile and divided: Saints Genevieve, Clotilda, Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena... Totally foreign and yet perfectly integrated, the Dominican Madeleine Fredell introduces us into the heart of Christian preaching, which is love in its concrete form: the relationship, the inclusion of all and service of the word. In fact preaching is not first and foremost a question of words or terms nor is it a question of regulations or laws; rather it is based on the free encounter of love that loves and is accepted. Thus in the first place it is a question of joy and of the need to communicate, which – like a river that cannot be prevented from flowing – becomes for preachers, men and women alike, a vital need to bear witness, to teach, to proclaim and to serve. Women were already preaching, directing retreats and giving lectures in places where men had long done so. Let us sincerely ask ourselves a question: so why can they not preach to everyone during a celebration? Enzo Bianchi reminds us: there is no evangelical prohibition that forbids women from assuming this role and so it is not impossible to entrust it to them. None of those, be they men or women, who have had such a heart-to-heart encounter with Jesus can prevent themselves from going to speak of it, from proclaiming it, since it is he, Christ, who makes witnesses, messengers and apostles of all the men and women he meets on his way. Thus it is a matter of living the Church as a rich and open community, interested in listening to the difference, and imagining her even livelier and more enticing. (Catherine Aubin)
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 18, 2020
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