As Christian women, we are not only given a unique ministry, the ministry of being a woman after God’s own heart, but in the Gospels we are shown that women have a special and close relationship with Jesus. This leads us to examine our own relationship with Jesus.
In the little book by Fr. Divo Barsotti, as translated by Fr. Adolf Faroni, sdb, entitled Woman in the Gospels (Don Bosco Press, Inc.), the author writes:
“No woman who has encountered Jesus is condemned; and in her relationship with Him, woman seems to have a power on His heart. Jesus chooses the twelve to stay with Him and sends them to announce the Good News of the Kingdom. Instead, the women who choose Jesus, follow Him and remain faithful to Him, even when everybody abandons Him. It seems that the mission of the announcement is first granted to the women: it is the Prophetess Anna who speaks of Him who was born in Jerusalem; it is the Samaritan woman who announces Him to the Samaritan people, and finally it is Mary of Magdala, whom Jesus himself sends to the apostles to announce the resurrection.”
Especially in the Gospels of Luke and John, the women, singly and as a group, are always nearby Jesus. His first miracle, changing water to wine during the wedding at Cana, was requested by Mary, his mother. Jesus takes his rest in the house of Mary and Martha in Bethany. He does not condemn the adulterous woman; He commends the widow who offers her last pennies at the Temple; He appreciates the gesture of the woman who washed his feet with perfume. It was the group of women who contributed their time and resources in seeing to the needs of Jesus and his apostles as they travelled from one place to another.
Even during Jesus’ Way of the Cross, He paused to speak to the women of Jerusalem; it was a woman who wiped his bloody face with her towel. While the disciples fled and hid, the women stayed with Him even unto the cross. Fr. Barsotti writes: “We can imagine Christ without the Apostles, but not Christ without His Mother.”
In His encounters and relationships with women, Jesus sees their needs and provides for them. He is touched by their suffering and comforts them, even raising their loved ones from the dead. With the women, He nourishes a relationship of fidelity, of friendship, and even of love. We warm to his loving and close relationship with Mary, his mother, who believed in Her Son and his mission, and who supported Him in faith throughout His life, death and resurrection.
What, then, do we glean from the Gospels about the ministry of womanhood, especially about our role as Christian women? First of all, we need to take notice of not only that women had a relationship with Jesus, and He with them, but more so, how this relationship affected them. We need to put ourselves in their shoes (or sandals) and ask ourselves: “How did this relationship with Jesus affect her life, her emotions, her faith?”
Then, we take a closer look at our own life and our own relationship with Jesus and ask ourselves the same question: “How does my relationship with Jesus affect my life? How do I feel in the presence of Jesus? How does Jesus see me? What does Jesus want me to do?”
As we embrace more sincerely the ministry of womanhood in our everyday lives, we will begin to realize that our being ‘woman’ denotes a special relationship with Jesus. And as a woman, we must knowingly and willingly nourish this relationship as Jesus draws us closer to Him and reveals to each of us, the particular and unique mission He has for each one of us. Our response to His loving relationship with us will determine how well we accept our role and responsibility as a woman in Jesus’ mission and ministry. –Nancy Catan