The most vulnerable people in the worlds of the Old and New Testament were women and children. The most vulnerable people in the world of our time are women and children.
So, what has changed? Nothing much it would seem. As we browse through various news channels on the internet, we read stories of violence against women and girls. We read startling articles of an increase in violence against women. Perhaps what has changed over the centuries is the reporting of such violence, and people finding their voice in protest.
It is sad to say that some of the roots of this violence and the tacit permission for its continuance lie deep in our religious traditions. This weekend we are offered as the Old Testament reading an account of the creation of humans as found in the 2nd chapter of Genesis. This story has been interpreted and used to portray the inferiority and subjection of women to men in religious and social circles. That is a violence against women that rarely hits the headlines. While, in what might be called the secular world, more and more women can take their rightful place, in most religious institutions this is not so. The power of Genesis 2:18-24 still prevails.
In the Gospel reading we get the same overtones from the Pharisees in their grumblings about divorce. Jesus does not respond with any great teaching on fidelity in marriage. He acknowledges that the Mosaic law allowed it because of their hardness of heart. What might this hardness of heart have been? Perhaps, it was that they had blocked out a profound wisdom of their tradition. Jesus reminds them of this as he uses a little thought of and seldom taught phrase from the first story of creation – “From the Beginning of Creation God made them male and female” and he couples that with a phrase from the second creation story “and the two become one”. One as in the one body of Christ, one as in made in the image of God, one as in being equal.
Where our Christian churches do not preach that we women are, from the beginning, made in the image and likeness of God, they give the silent assent to the pandemic of gender violence, and have indeed turned away from Jesus, the Christ, to follow another path
Elizabeth Ferguson O.P.