In Jesus’ time on earth, the prevailing male attitude toward women was patronizing and condescending at best. Unlike most of His contemporaries, however, Jesus did not devalue women or shun them in public; quite the opposite. To discern this, we need only consult Sacred Scripture.
Beginning with the woman who held first claim on His human heart, His mother Mary, Saint John relates that at Cana, Jesus acquiesced to Mary’s feminine request on behalf of the wedding feast’s hosts by performing His first public miracle (Jn 2:1-11). At Calvary, just as she was there to initiate Jesus’ earthly ministry, Mary was present when it ended at the Cross. There, the final generous act of a loving Son entrusted His mother to the care of the beloved disciple (Jn 19:26-27).
Jesus understood many aspects of life from a woman’s perspective, the complex role of motherhood included. Consider this passage redolent of mixed maternal emotions: “When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived, but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world” (Jn 16:21). What mother, two thousand years ago or today, could not relate?
The Gospels present many instances of understanding and compassion in Jesus’ interactions with women experiencing difficulties – physical, emotional, or spiritual. Here is a sampling:
~the woman bent over; Jesus’ laying on of hands released her terrible burden of eighteen years (Lk 13:10-17)
~the widow of Nain; Jesus looked on her with pity and brought her only son back to life (Lk 7:11-17)
~Martha and Mary; Jesus grieved publicly with them at the death of their brother Lazarus and then restored him to life (Jn 11:1-44)
~the woman caught in adultery; Jesus intervened to prevent her death by stoning and refused to join those condemning her (Jn 8:2-11)
~the Samaritan woman at the well; Jesus’ manner in dealing with her was forthright yet non-judgmental (Jn 4:4-42)
~Mary Magdalene; closeness to Jesus turned her troubled past into true devotion as a disciple of her Master (Lk 8:1-3; Jn 20:14-17)
Women served as mourners during Jesus’ final hours, along the road to Calvary and as witnesses to His Crucifixion and death. These were the women who had heard, repented, converted, followed, supported, and ministered to Jesus. Surely, they were bereft on Good Friday at the death of the Master who understood them so well; we can only imagine their joy on Easter Sunday!
While Scripture relates numerous examples of the compassion and caring which characterized Jesus’ encounters with women, we can find comfort in the knowledge that He still understands our God-given feminine nature today. He is ready to meet us where we are – healthy, strong, and capable; or physically, emotionally, or spiritually needy – with the same loving patience experienced by so many women in Scripture. He understands each of us intimately, as women and as unique individuals with struggles, blessings, worries, and talents of our own.
In the end, what is important for us to remember is that Jesus truly knows the workings of a woman’s heart. All we need to do is to open that heart to Him.
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