Day 14: How Jesus Loved
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
‘They marveled that He was talking to a woman’ (Jn. 4:27).
Jesus may be a formidable role model for male-female relations; however, both His chaste singleness and game-changing interactions with women in the Gospels grant us men a high bar to measure our quality of love for women in all ‘forms of life we share together’ (TOB 43:7).
Might we emulate Jesus in confirming and protecting her original dignity? Rather than talk about gender justice, Jesus acted justly toward her; He manifested a Kingdom that broke the back of misogyny and empowered her to come alongside Him to advance that Kingdom. OK. We men are not the savior(s) of the world. But we possess His saving love and share manhood with Him. May He inspire us to embody active, bold righteousness toward her.
Look at how Jesus, prudent and risky in smashing social norms, insinuated Himself upon the wary, wounded woman of Samaria (Jn. 4). Shrouded in shame, she avoided the town gossips by braving the desert at midday for her water run. Jesus showed up solo as well, to the chagrin of his disciples. His casual yet probing interaction suggest a man wholly formed and confident that His gift of ‘living water’ could reach her and supplant her sin and social isolation. Lit by Jesus and fired up, she took up her vocation by evangelizing the entire village!
No less liberating was Jesus’ advocacy of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8: 2-11). As an angry mob of men scapegoated her, Jesus became her stronghold, a fortress against their dangerous hypocrisy. He protected her from harm and overturned the cultural myth that she was the oppressor, the temptress, rather than oppressed by a privileged rich man. Jesus made it easy for her to own complicity (‘go and sin no more…’) to the tune of stones dropping, under His almighty, tender gaze.
May we never cease to marvel at the Merciful Man who cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, her oppression most likely based on trading her body for bread. So grateful was she, and He, so accessible, that she took up with the band of women who accompanied Jesus along His ‘signs and wonders’ trek to Jerusalem (Lk. 8: 1-3). Jesus invited and ignited women to extend Heaven’s rule on earth. His inclusion dignified them. It ushered in a new rule of gender relating.
No wonder that of all the disciples, only women (including Mary Magdalene) waited on the Crucified as He died a slow torturous death. A woman abides better than a man; when secure in love, she will tend to give all to the ones who fought for and won her. No wonder the Magdalene lingered at the tomb while the men scattered. Her hope was doused but still undivided. Present at His first ‘sighting’ then entrusted by Jesus with the message of Resurrection, Mary makes clear that women are not only co-heirs with men in the Kingdom--Jesus displays His splendor boldly and specifically through their feminine genius.
Men, might we seek to represent Jesus by recognizing and honoring and including woman in our common purposes? She imparts a blessedly different and exquisite giftedness to ‘all forms of life we share together.’
‘In this most arduous test of faith and fidelity [Jesus’ death], the women proved stronger than the apostles. In the moment of danger, those who love much succeed in overcoming their fears.’ Pope St. John Paul II, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’