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God belongs to us as truly as we belong to God

Jane Kryzanowski, Special to The Review | January 1, 2020

The author of the Gospel of Matthew was focused on naming Jesus as the Son of Man, the Son of Humanity, One of us.  The author takes great care in identifying Jesus as being of the House of Judah and the House of David. Joseph, named the lineage bearer, was of the house of David. The act of naming Jesus by Joseph made him the legal father.  Jesus belonged to Joseph, to the House of David and to the Tribe of Judah.  Jesus belonged to God’s people.  This is more than Emmanuel, God-with-us. God belongs to us. God longs to be with us.

Jean Vanier, founder of the LaArche communities, has wisely observed that greater than the need for love is the need to belong.  Without a sense of belonging, a person will not feel loved. There are many places in the Scriptures where we read the promise, “You will be my people and I will be your God.”  I think the Gospel writer may be trying to convey this same message with the inclusive genealogy that includes the fore-mothers and fore-fathers of Jesus.

By the mystery of the incarnation, God wants us to experience that God belongs to us as much as we belong to God -- not in an exclusive, possessive way, but as a secure knowing that we are bound to God. Belonging is a two-way relationship. God is our Mother/Father as much as we are God’s children.
As soon as a baby is born the parents want to hold and caress and kiss their baby.  The baby is theirs.  They may already have a name for the child and say the name to the child. Grandmas and the Grandpas can’t wait for their turn to hold and cuddle the baby.  This child belongs to them, too.  As Mary and Joseph cuddled and cooed to their baby on the night of his birth, we can imagine them whispering his name, Jeshua.  In their embrace, Jesus had his first sense of belonging to humanity.

With the sheep herders and the seekers of wisdom we ponder this scene. Let each of us embrace Jesus in our heart.  God belongs to us as truly as we belong to God.

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

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  • God belongs to us as truly as we belong to God
  • Voices of Faith reviews the past year fighting patriarchy and looks ahead to 2020
  • Indigenous people can teach us about divine maternal power
  • A Meaningful Canadian Christmas
  • Comments to the Editor
  • RCWP Canada Bishop's Message: Fore-mothers of Jesus – Mary – and us
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RCWP Canada Bishop's Message

Fore-mothers of JesusMaryand us

As we saw in my two previous messages, the women included in the genealogy of the Gospel of Matthew were interesting characters, surrounded by controversy – there is some sexual impropriety or inuendo and they are Gentiles, from outside the Jewish nation. Nonetheless, each of these “shady ladies” had an integral part of God’s plan in Jesus. To the early Christians in a Jewish patriarchal society they illustrate the strange ways that God can work to bring about the Divine plan for universal salvation. After all, the thrust of the Gospel is “to make disciples of all nations.” (Mt. 28:19) The message of their inclusion in the genealogy is a strong statement by the Gospel writer that radical inclusivity is an essential element in the way of life for followers of Jesus.

As a virgin who became pregnant, Mary's situation was even more unusual than that of the fore-mothers. Mary is in the genealogy of Jesus as his mother, because of her relationship to Joseph who is of the House of David. She was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together it came to be known that she was pregnant. Knowing he had nothing to do with it, Joseph decided to arrange a quiet divorce. He was told by the Angel of God not be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child she was carrying was of the Holy Spirit and that he, Joseph, was to name the child (Mt. 1:18-21). Naming the child was a mark of claiming the child as his own. By naming Jesus, Jesus was to belong to Joseph, of the House of David, the House of Judah, and by extension, to all humanity.

The point for Matthew that the genealogy of Jesus is one of faith rather than bloodline is emphasized by the inclusion of these fore-mothers. Like the God of Israel, these strong women were at the edge and on the boundary, in between times and places, moving people toward a different vision and a new future. Including them in the genealogy creates a precedent for the way that God operated in the life of those chosen for God’s purposes – a God that promises to deliver the needy when they call, the poor, and those who have no helper. These women were open to possibilities for Divine intervention in their lives that had the result of perpetuating the House of Judah and the House of David from which the promised Messiah would come. Would their inclusion have helped allay any fears about the controversy that likely surrounded Mary in the early days of the Matthew community – a community rooted in its Jewish heritage yet struggling to be inclusive of Gentile believers?

Could it also be that the character traits for which these women were known were the same attributes that would have been seen in Mary by the early Christian communitythe hunger for justice of Tamar, the faith of and compassion of Rahab, the loyalty and love of Ruth, the foresight and wisdom of Bathsheba? Did Jesus see these qualities in his mother, too. Mary certainly had to be a gutsy lady to withstand the difficulties and challenges of her life and that of her family. She is praised for her faith along with “all who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Mt. 12: 49)

In our world patriarchy continues to marginalize women. For us, as it was for the fore-mothers and for Mary, systems of patriarchy continue to marginalize women and exclude them from key roles in church and society. Patriarchy denies the inherent and sacred rights of women created in the image of God. Patriarchy denies the autonomy of women and tells them who they are, what they can do and how they can do it, and what they can not do. Patriarchy denies women their voice or says their voices don’t matter -- they aren’t worthy to be heard. Patriarchy exercises control over women’s bodies, minds and souls as women are treated as subservient property.

Being on the outside of social order of the day, whether in the time of the ancients, the time of Mary or today is not easy. It isn’t hard to look at Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba and recognize women of today:

  • Women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

  • Women who are regarded as no more than sex toys and disposable garbage after men have had their fun, as many of our missing and murdered indigenous sisters experience.

  • Women who are intimidated from asking for what they need to realize their potential.

  • Women who are the victims of constant advertising about personal appearance.

  • Women who feel the need to seduce or deceive a male superior to obtain what they are justly entitled to.

  • Women separated from their children in immigrant and refugee camps.

  • Women who struggle to survive as single moms.

  • Women who are ridiculed and criticized for their looks and bullied by their peers.

  • Women who become addicted to drugs because their bodies have been violated.

  • Women who are pressured to compromise their sexual integrity to maintain their job or receive advancement.

  • Women unable to fulfill their calling to ministry because they are women.

Crimes against some women are crimes against all women. Change will come about when courageous women and men say no to the evils that continue to dehumanize and oppress much of the world female population. 

Mary’s consent to bear the Messiah, of the House of Judah and the House of David, marks her as favoured by God. Her yes also left her vulnerable to sanctions of the law and social disdain. Like the fore-mothers, her story has an outcome that ensures the birth of a child to carry on the covenant promise. Along with them she becomes the holy ground where the divine promises to Israel are carried forward and fulfilled. In the image of Mary as a scandalous woman with whom God identifies, we see a God who acts as one who sides with the rejected, endangered woman and child. Through the sinners and outcasts in the Gospel of Matthew, this message, first embodied in the fore-mothers and the mother of the Messiah, will be amplified.

Did Jesus think of the fore-mothers as he went about his ministry of proclaiming an inclusive reign of God, as when he restored the centurion’s daughter to life, or allowed the hemorrhaging woman who stopped him while on the way to the centurion’s house to touch him? (Mathew 9:18-25) Did he think of his fore-mothers when he encountered the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed by demons? (Matthew 15:21-28), or while teaching about adultery (Ch 5 and 19)?

Matthew's Gospel is strong on radical inclusion of women and Gentiles within the narrative. Women are present in the beginning and at the end where we see women taking a prominent role again (Matthew 28:1-15). Women are the first ones to arrive at the tomb of Jesus; women are the first ones to experience the risen Christ; women are the first ones to be told: “Go and tell”. In a society where a woman’s testimony represented half that of a man’s, and where women were not allowed as far into the Temple of God as a man, this represents radical inclusivity.

Likewise, Gentiles are present in the beginning and at the end. At the point of his death, a centurion (a Gentile Roman soldier) declares “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). In the time of Jesus, Gentiles were not allowed to enter the Temple to worship God but were instead relegated to a courtyard outside of the temple.

Just as Matthew highlights the wondrous plans of God within the lives of others – even when they go against the conventions of the day – it is our challenge today to be mindful of the potential and possibilities of what God is doing in our world. Women are called and chosen by God to be bearers of justice, truth, mercy and love even in ways that may seem unorthodox to us. Our meditations on Mary and her radical consent to the call of God should lead us to advocacy for the welfare of all women of the world for whom Jesus came as the fulfillment of the eternal promises of God.

Click here for part 1 and part 2 in this series.

[These reflections are inspired by the writings of Helen Bruh Pearson, Mother Roots (Upper Room Books, 2002), John Shelby Spong, Born of a Virgin (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992), and Elizabeth Johnson, Truly Our Sister (Continnum, 2005).]

+ Jane

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


Voices of Faith reviews the past year fighting patriarchy and looks ahead to 2020
We wish you a safe, happy and joyful Christmas season filled with love, laughter and most importantly good food and wine! Our team are taking a little break from fighting the patriarchy (as you know it's hard work!) We will be back online, fresh and ready for 2020 on the 6th January.

Indigenous people can teach us about divine maternal power

Unsplash.com photo              

Christine Schenk, ncronline.org | December 17, 2019

As a nurse midwife, I will admit to being fascinated by the carefully wrought carving of a naked kneeling pregnant woman — variously identified as symbolic of mother earth and/or Our Lady of the Amazon — that so offended one conservative male critic that he had a videographer record him as he took several such carvings from a church and then threw them into the Tiber River.

How mature of him.

Despite a plenitude of evidence to the contrary, this misguided male accused attendees at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon of idolatry. The ensuing kerfuffle continues, with some — in a fit of fear-mongering — even calling for prayers of exorcism.

This artistic rendition of a reverent kneeling figure depicts an infant in the woman's womb — hence her identification with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Read More

A Meaningful Canadian Christmas

Jackie Guiond photo  

Jackie Guimond, Special to The Review | December 8, 2019

We unpacked our nativity set, and with the backdrop of Advent/Solstice music, carefully placed each figure in its proper, designated place. Ours is a lovely, larger than most, set given to us by my sister several years ago, A flick of the switch and the mini-lites from below seemingly bring the scene to life…or so I thought for the moment…

A short time later I decided to get closer to study the faces of these porcelain icons. Just maybe they had something to say to me.

The fellow on the left..a shepherd…he could be a Canadian in need of a red toque to show appreciation for the winters we still enjoy, despite the threat of global warming..

 A young Mary dons a hijab to stand in solidarity with the Muslim women and girls kidnapped, raped and murdered..

Two white sheep rest quietly, seemingly undaunted by the horrors of the day, while nearby a small black one stares at the manger pleading.. ”help me, please!”

Behind Mary  is a donkey, a gentle looking animal, but accepting the burden of representing the power hungry ‘jackasses’ in the world.

Gentle Jewish Joseph  remains steadfast, guarding his family and providing light for the Magi.

The Gold bearer wears a rainbow sash; he brings with him the richness of the Gay community.

The Black  king offers Frankincense – perhaps an invitation to contemplative prayer - Hindu prayer.

While the third king brings myrhh…harsh reminder of the senseless deaths and carnage we hear of every day.

Alone in the snow near the Christ-Child is a 35 year old Smurf, made by Gerry’s, my husband's daughter…a creature to represent all who seem different and alien to us..

All come from different places and perspectives…but all there FOR and TO one reason:  To experience Incarnation, the Presence of the Divine, made visible in a child, a little boy whose tiny arms are big enough to embrace the World.

[Jackie Guimond, Fort Frances, ON]

This edition of The Review is so rich I don't know where to start! Jane Kryzanowski's message is interesting and full of affirmation of women. Marie Bouclin's article is riveting, and one of the best summaries of the history and problems of clericalization I have ever read - kudos to Marie! And the Nancy Rockwell piece, No More Lying About Mary, was informative and inspiring. Thank you for such richness to ponder during this Advent season.

[Kathy Cameron, Regina, SK]

I just want to say thank you Bishop Jane for the article on the "shady ladies " - How powerful that understanding  is that "yes" the writers of The Gospel of Matthew are indeed likening Mary to these women on account of the miraculous and strange power God chose to work through them. No doubt they were examples given in order to comfort the early church regarding the Virgin Birth and to help them understand just what Gabriel said, "For with God nothing shall be impossible".

I also want to thank you and all the North American women bishops' group for criticizing, publicly, the poor prioritization of the issue of abortion by the US bishops. I have commented on different Catholic media sections how wrong I believe this priority is by our bishops, especially if one knows the evidence surrounding "Pro Life's" choice of reactions to abortion which is only to criminalize it in the U.S. I have confronted our bishops and various cardinals and Pro Life Activists, as well, on the error of their singular choice of response on this subject and reminded them to examine the evidence that exists. That evidence is: Every country in the world which has made birth control and/or abortion difficult to access has higher abortion rates, within the population of their women, compared to those countries whose laws are lenient on both. The largest difference in rates is between those countries that do or don't offer free and effective birth control. but even countries that offer access to birth control but not abortion also have higher abortion rates than countries that offer both. This evidence was researched heavily and for decades and reported by both Guttmacher, and separately by The World Health Organization, which came up with nearly identical results. Meanwhile, no remotely legitimate data source exists that can offer contrary evidence to what these highly reputable data resources have reported.

Many of the countries with the highest abortion rates, and many double the rate of the U.S., are in South America which has made both access to abortion and birth control extremely difficult and a crime. because they are Catholic countries. This is evidence that the only truly Christian legal stand on the subject of birth control and abortion is to not make access difficult to either reproductive mechanism or your country's abortion rate will surely rise as will the maternal death rates.

Pro-life's remedy is a destructive choice and there exists many better proven options to lessen abortion rates. Criminalizing abortion leads to greater numbers of abortions and maternal deaths everywhere around the globe where it is allowed into law. This makes "Pro Choice" the only option that actually results in less death, and more life, including life of the unborn.

Not shockingly, when women have the confidence and strength that comes from knowing they have freedom, they often use that confident freedom to choose life.

Thank you again. This was a powerful issue of The Review for me.

[Nora Bolcon, Pawtucket, RI]

Francis, the comic strip                                                                                           Francis Comic Strip Archive                
by Pat Marrin | December 24, 2013
National Catholic Reporter
Used with permission

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