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A New Light on John’s Gospel:  Mary's Voice in the Gospel According to John

A New Translation with Commentary by Michael Pakaluk  (Author)

The Gospel according to John has always been recognized as different from the “synoptic” accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

But what explains the difference?

In this new translation and verse-by-verse commentary, Michael Pakaluk suggests an answer and unlocks a two-thousand-year-old mystery. Mary’s Voice in the Gospel according to John reveals the subtle but powerful influence of the Mother of Jesus on the fourth Gospel.

In his dying words, Jesus committed his Mother to the care of John, the beloved disciple, who “from that hour . . . took her into his own home.” Pakaluk draws out the implications of that detail, which have been overlooked for centuries.

In Mary’s remaining years on earth, what would she and John have talked about? Surely no subject was as close to their hearts as the words and deeds of Jesus. Mary’s unique perspective and intimate knowledge of her Son must have shaped the account of Jesus’ life that John would eventually compose.

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  RCWP Canada Bishop's Message

Discipleship of Equals

Women of the early Jesus movement who played a huge role in proclaiming the good news, have inspired feminist archaeologists and theologians to dig into the origins of the early church. In her recent work, Mary and Early Christian Women: hidden leadership, Ally Kateusz notes that “one of the most striking phenomena about the early followers of Jesus is that women appear to have been exceptionally involved in the spread of the movement.” We don’t often hear of them except in a the Letter to the Romans which is not included in the Catholic Church's lectionary.

It shouldn't be a surprise that it was in community, men and women together, that they worked out what this new commandment of Jesus meant: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Women were faithful disciples throughout his ministry, witnessed his death and burial and broke the good news of the resurrection. They were part of the early communities as they worked out what they were to be and do. Hope was in the community of believers, women and men, a discipleship of equals who continued to discern the way all can live into the fullness of life promised by the Risen Christ.

The Acts of the Apostles was written for Greek converts to the Jesus movement. They were curious about how a religion that had started among Jews had come to embrace them. It is a story of exclusion, struggle, persecution, martyrdom. The early followers of Jesus were expelled from the Synagogue. They were persecuted by the likes of Saul and even killed. Saul experienced conversion from a persecutor of Christians to a believer and a person very influential in the development of Christian communities.

Nearly all of the letters written by Paul to communities were ones he had a major hand in establishing. As he traveled the Mediterranean region, Paul used letters to keep in touch with them. The letter to the Romans is different, however, because the church already existed there. Instead of being a follow-up letter, this is a letter of introduction. Paul was planning to visit Rome and wanted to introduce himself and his gospel message to the church in advance of his coming.

Paul was eager to express the connection he already felt with the church in Rome, even though he had never been there. This connection began, of course, with their shared status as Christ-followers and the message about Jesus that both he and they preached. The points of connection extended to specific people that Paul knew or at least knew about, when he wrote the letter. Near the end of the letter, Paul sends greetings to a number of individuals, pairs or household groups whom he knows to be at Rome. Greeting these people by name solidifies Paul’s connection to a place he has yet to physically visit.

A passage which is a composite picture of the diversity of the earliest Christian community in Rome (Romans16:1-16) provides insight into the nature, character, and roles of the communities. The people Paul greets are male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. Their unity comes not from their uniformity but from their connection to a common mission. No matter their gender, social status, economic status, or ethnicity, they are all co-workers in Christ.

According to an article by Marg Mowczko, the twenty-nine named people in the letter to the Romans, a third are women and are described in terms of their ministry (Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis). By comparison, only three men are described in terms of their ministry (Aquila, Andronicus, Urbanus), and two of these men are ministering alongside a female partner (Aquila with Prisca, Andronicus with Junia).

Phoebe, the first to be named, was probably the bearer of this letter. She is called a servant or deacon. It helps to remember that the words “deacon” and “deaconess” really didn't exist in Greek; the word was servant. Junia was one of those sent, probably along with her husband (Andronicus). Like Priscilla and Aquila, they were probably active in evangelizing and the establishment of new churches. That would help explain their imprisonment at this early date. The groups of names in the latter verses likely refer to house church communities and include women along with men who are hard workers among the people.

Paul wanted to foster unity among the believers in Rome and the different house churches. Paul makes a point of highlighting the ethnicity of some of his fellow Jews, (Rom. 16:71116:21). He asks that these people and the various households be greeted and calls for mutual and reciprocal salutations among the Roman Christians. This is significant as there were tensions between the Jews and Gentiles in the Roman Church at the time Paul wrote his letter. He wanted to ease tensions among the Romans, including ethnic tensions.

How to interpret the words that Paul wrote about women is a matter of ongoing debate in the church and among biblical scholars. It is apparent that women were active in significant ministries in the church at Rome. It is also apparent that gender does not seem to be a prominent issue for the historical Paul in this text. Paul has no problem with these women. Rather, he affirms them and their ministries. Did Paul make a point of affirming these women in an effort to ease tensions caused by some Roman Christians who had a problem with ministering women?


[Jane Kryzanowski, Regina, SK is bishop for RCWP Canada]

Truly Our Sister

                                     Book cover

A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints by Elizabeth A. Johnson

This book pays tribute to this first-century peasant who fulfilled her mission as a friend of God and a prophet.

Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Comments to the Editor

Sadly, we’ve lost an apostle, Hans Kung is dead. He was perhaps the most forward-looking theologian on Vatican II.  Almost singlehandedly, he got a large number of bishops to resist Pope Paul VI when he proposed to retain to himself the questions of celibacy, birth control, womens’ place, the Jews and reform of the Curia. Sadly, in the end he and the bishops lost on birth control, celibacy and reform of the Curia, but they did advance the church from the middle ages to at least the 19th century.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II removed him from his position as a theologian at a Catholic university and forbade him to teach at any Catholic institution.  The pope and the Curia tried to shut him up, but were not successful.  He kept his professorial place at an Austrian University and continued to write best selling theology books.

In a book in 2011, he wrote that the Church is “seriously, even terminally ill because of the abuse scandals, celibacy, women not in the priesthood, birth control and resistance to reform.”

Hans Kung was a true Apostle of the 20th and 21st centuries.  

[Gene Swain, Calgary, AB]

Typo Tracker

In the interest of The Review becoming as perfect as possible, technically that is, we are introducing Typo Tracker, counting on the eagle eyes out there to identify typos, spelling errors, grammatical errors, broken links, inconsistent formatting, or any other technical glitches that shouldn't be there.  Disagreement with the content won't count for this contest.

Prizes, as yet undetermined, will be awarded to the first person who identifies each particular typo.

Typo found

In the last issue of The Review, the date for the Francis Comic was given as 2022.  It should have been 2021.  The subscriber who found the typo wants to remain anonymous.

Who is Mary for women today? – Zuzanna Radzik interviews Tina Beattie

Magazine Cover   

mother, strong, free, normal, human, mystic

Polish journalist and feminist theologian Zuzanna Radzik interviewed Tina Beattie about Mary for women in the Church today, which was the cover story of the Polish weekly, Tygodnik Powszechny.

The Zoom interview was recorded and you can watch it here as a YouTube video.  (56 minutes)

Visitation of Vatican liturgy office could lead to liturgical reform

Thomas Reese, | April 8, 2021

If the pope asked you what you thought about Catholic liturgy, what would you say to him? What is going well? What needs to change?

Bishop Claudio Maniago of Castellaneta, president of the Italian bishops' conference's liturgical commission, must answer these questions for the pope, who asked him to do a “visitation” of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Although charged with overseeing liturgy for the church, the office has done little to support badly needed liturgical reform.

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In a second article, Thomas Reese offers his own ideas on improving liturgy as an attempt to get the conversation going, inviting liturgical scholars and others to consider his proposals.

Other people's thoughts on reforming the liturgy

We must restore the powerful witness of women leaders to the Catholic lectionary

FDK photo   

Christine Schenk, | April 16, 2021

My ears perked up last week when I learned that Pope Francis had authorized a "visitation" at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments following the recent retirement of that office's prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah.

I couldn't agree more with Jesuit Fr. Tom Reese's opinion that this office "has done little to support badly needed liturgical reform."

But it is not for want of trying on the part of reform-minded Catholics.

In 2008 a two-year campaign supported by nearly 20,000 Catholics worldwide asked the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God to restore biblical women leaders to lectionary texts from which their witness had been diminished or deleted. Full disclosure: I helped spearhead this campaign and was in Rome during the synod, albeit watching around the edges. Here are a few examples first identified by Benedictine Sr. Ruth Fox that we shared with synod bishops:

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Beth Allison Barr wants Christians to know where 'biblical womanhood' comes from. (It's not the Bible)

Pearl Gregor, Special to The Review | May 1, 2021

It's been awhile since I've sent a comment to The Review. Tonight, I couldn't resist. Women around the world, including the world of the Southern Baptist Conference which has even more of a stranglehold on women that the Vatican, are restless.

"We are tired. Tired of putting up with the crap of gender bias. And we have a voice that grows by the day. The earth can't withstand much more of the toxicity that is patriarchal Christianity."

I read the attached article. I want to bring attention to the answer Ms. Barr gave to the questions: "What will it take for Christian patriarchy to end? What will it take for that to thappen. The answer is deep, and so simple. What if we stopped putting up with it? What if women in churches, instead of being silent like I was, actually stop allowing the leaders to get away with it? I think that can help to change things."

Yes. What if we did just that. What if women who have awakened in this century? What if men who have awakened in this century? What if What if we simply stopped being silent? Silence is complicity. What if we quit doing and being the nice, noisy women we are? What if we simply quit the meetings, the never ending conversations, the begging, the pleading? So far, we have been rather quiet. I know some have been fairly noisy but apparently NOT noisy enough. It's difficult being noisy. There are many who would just be happy if we shut the hell up completely and went back to doing the dishes, not banging any pots and pans around in the kitchen.

What if women in churches, just stood up next Sunday and said, "I'm done. Here's what we want for the women and children of the world. I think the RCWP Canada would write a script available to every women who would be willing to stand in her church on Mother's Day and declare her freedom.

I'm pretty sure we could get this organized by Mother's Day Sunday 2022. This year might be a bit sketchy. But next year??? Women have organized families and home businesses and corporations and nations. I wonder.

One of the taglines for the book is, “It’s time for Christian patriarchy to end.” What do you think it would take for that to happen? What comes next?

What if we stopped putting up with it? What if women in churches, instead of being silent like I was, actually stop allowing the leaders to get away with it? I think that can help to change things.

[Pearl Gregor, PhD, New Sarepta, AB is author of
Dreams Along The Way]
Beth Allison Barr's new book, “The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth" -- an interview

FDK photo               

Reflections on the Sunday Readings
by Susan Roll

Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter B, May 9, 2021

Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17.

These past few weeks our Gospel readings from the account of John come from a section of text that seems to have been parachuted into John’s idiosyncratic account of the Last Supper. Jesus is depicted giving a lengthy speech to his disciples about the future -- their future -- as they unfold and live out their post-Resurrection faith when he is no longer among them. Scholars call these chapters 15-17 of John the “Farewell Discourses.”

Some years ago, I was working on a project with a New Testament scholar who was a woman religious. When we worked at her office in the convent I was regularly invited to share a coffee break or lunch in the community refectory. Almost as soon as we sat down we were swooped down upon by Sister John, a friendly, chatty elder nun. Sister John never ran out of things to tell us. She would finish her lunch, stand up, and then linger, leaning over her chair while she chatted on and on. And on. My friend and I went back to work with a wan smile, joking about Sister John’s Farewell Discourse.

These chapters of course date from three generations after the lifetime of the historical Jesus, and contain a good deal of somewhat off-putting you-versus-the-world dualism. But last week’s metaphor of the vine and the branches was one little gem tucked into the text, and this week we have another, related nugget: “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you, to go forth and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

Read More of this reflection

Read More reflections by Susan Roll

Read other reflections and homilies

Francis, the comic strip            
by Pat Marrin |  July 31, 2018
National Catholic Reporter
Used with permission

RCWP Liturgies on Zoom

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