555 North Commercial Road #1Palm Springs, CA 92262 • 760-778-8950 • Every Sunday: Sung Mass 10:30 AM
SERMON AT A QUINCEANERA
St. John’s Church, Indio, CA 11-27-2010
Lessons: 1 Esdras 4: 14-32; Romans 12:1-8; Luke 10:38-42
In case you haven’t noticed, women are taking over the world. On January one, the California Supreme Court will consist of four women and three men, and the Chief Justice will be a woman. California’s two United Statessenators are both women. Our representative in the United States Congress is a woman. In my own life, not only am I married to a woman and have two girl dogs as our family, but my dentist, my banker, my escrow officer, my personal physician, my tax preparer, and my office landlord, are all female.
The words you heard about women in the first reading are coming to pass in a way not anticipated the author of the words. Women had a very different role in ancient Jewish society before the time of Jesus. In those days, women were property – of their fathers before they got married, and of their husbands afterwards. Women worked behind the scenes and were considered a support system for the men to whom they were married. Women exercised whatever power they had indirectly, by subtle manipulation.
Jesus changed that. Jesus respected women. For Jesus, women and men were equals in God’s eyes. Not only did Jesus honor His Mother throughout his life, Jesus’ respect for women extended to all women, an attitude largely unknown in His culture. Women, as well as men, could be among His disciples, and among those disciples was Mary of Magdala, whom we now know as Mary Magdalene, one of two women who were the first people to see him after he rose from the dead at Easter.
In today’s gospel, Jesus was visiting two women he knew in Bethany. By doing so, Jesus showed that he respected women as people, not property, in seeking their friendship as a visitor. He recognized women as good for something beyond household chores. In the story, Martha was more concerned about her house chores than being in the presence of Jesus at His feet listening to Him. What Jesus was saying is that being a woman is much more than keeping house.
This isn’t the only instance where Jesus recognized women above and beyond the way in which his contemporaries did. He raised the daughter of Jarius the synagogue official from apparent death. He healed a woman who had suffered from unexplained bleeding for many years. He saved a woman who had committed adultery from death by stoning by telling the crowd, “let those without sin cast the first stone.” And one of the most touching stories about Jesus I know has a woman breaking open a box of ointment, pouring it over Him and bathing his feet which she dried with her long hair. When men in the room protested that she was a sinner that shouldn’t be touching Him, he scolded them, pointing out that unlike the men, she was sensitive and caring. In doing so, Jesus recognized the uniqueness of women’s gifts for ministry. He’s recognizing that there’s something about a woman’s caring touch that we men just don’t have.
In the tradition we observe today, Alondra exits girlhood and enters womanhood. To be a woman in the 21st Century is very different in many ways than in yesteryear. Instead of just performing behind the scenes, women are front and center with men as equals in many of the same roles as lawyers, doctors, and even as deacons, priests and bishops. Yes, Alondra, unlike some churches, if God calls you to do it, can be ordained in the Episcopal Church, just like a man can. Don’t forget that Jesus’ attitude towards women made all that possible.
As we heard in the second lesson, God calls all of us to different ministries in the church and in life. As a fifteen year old you’re starting a discernment process about what you want to do with your life in relation to God and the world. Discernment is about finding yourself, about who you really are. I didn’t have the slightest clue about what I wanted to do with my life when I was 15, and I am sure, you don’t either, Alondra. That may sound scary to you, but I assure you, it is perfectly normal for both men and women at your age.
Everyone growing up faces six important questions: Where am I going to live, what are my educational plans, what career am I going to follow, whether or not to get married and if so, to whom, whether or not to have children, and if so, natural or adopted, how many and when, and most important, what kind of spiritual life will you follow? There are no correct answers to any of these questions. Everyone has different answers. In considering these questions, remember first and foremost that you’re a person with a brain and that the way to be fully human is to think. You feelings are important, but if you really want to be truly successful in your life, you’ll consider these questions in a rational way based on facts that you’ve taken the opportunity to investigate. For you, this will be so much easier than it was for people of my generation and that of your parents, and that’s because you never knew a world without the ability to Google the Internet.
What you want to take away today is to surround yourself with people who respect you, particularly your family. Don’t let yourself be used by guys who want to take advantage of you and then leave you. You want men in your life who respect you. Remember, Jesus taught respect for women. You don’t need men who don’t.
In finding yourself, the most important thing is to listen to Jesus with your heart just like Mary was doing in Bethany, and like Mary, to be in the presence of people who respect you. Remember that God created you as good. Remember that God loves you and God cares for you. God now challenges you to discern what gifts you have, and to make the most of them. AMEN.