Greetings. Reflecting on the readings for today I found that rather than using them to critique others, I was challenged to critically introspect.
The reading from Malachi and the gospel from Matthew, addressed to religious leaders of their times, describe a way to measure effectivity of religious leadership. Whilst the obvious focus of the readings would be the ordained, let us extend it to ourselves, women and others involved in seeking a church according to the heart and mind of the divine. We too are called and entrusted with the task of facilitating the right understanding of divine teaching in the context of our times.
The readings challenge us to face the contradictions within ourselves and grow into an expansion and opening of our own Christ consciousness and spirituality. Then like in the psalm of today, we can acclaim “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”
Jesus In the gospel, critiques the religious leaders for their hypocrisy; draws attention to the narrow, burdensome way they taught the law; their main motivation for leadership being their attachment to privileges; and the incongruence between what they preached and practiced.
What are our motivations for being part of the “ministry of struggle”, and all it entails? Do we live out our call to leadership with integrity and genuineness?
Paul, in the it is possible to be an effective leader. His style of caring leadership bore fruitamong the people he ministered to; he says that his integrity & faithfulness were revealed in his style of teaching where “in receiving the word of God from hearing him, they received not a human word but, as it truly was, the word of God”.
Why is it that Spirit-inspired understandings of the word of God fail to reach the faithful. Instead, ‘Out-of-date’ teachings, bereft of compassion and mercy, limited to the ‘rule of law’ which in itself needs to be reviewed, sadly make many stumble, falter, feel unwelcome, guilty and excluded. Teachings with a skewed, understanding on relationships, marriage, divorce, violence and abuse, sexual preferences, interfaith relationships, etc. etc. pass on an interpretation of the Good News totally incompatible with the heart and mind of Christ.
True ordained leaders entrusted with the task of teaching, appear to be ignorant of how to read and interpret scripture through the lens of Christ. Progress made in the sciences and theological studies are disregarded mainly because of mindsets resistant to change.
Most faithful in the pews have little access to updated faith formation as adults, or formation to think critically. Instead of being supported and accompanied in their life’s challenges, they are fed placebos of endless novenas and prayers to call on an external God to bring about a solution, or told to accept their situations as “God’s will”.
How responsible are we for this situation? Do we make efforts to present something different? The ministry of struggle for equal discipleship include teaching, mentoring and accompanying others. This embraces transforming mindsets of those who exclude, and those who are excluded, so that they become conscious of the injustice of discrimination which is normalised and know that it is contrary to the values of the reign of God.. Are we ready to share with others the gift of our learnings from the studies we engage in, seminars we attend and the papers we present? Do we create new spaces to share what we gain with others?
We have been active in challenging the patriarchal, misogynistic mindsets that perpetuate exclusion. Women leaders within the Church through persistent personal study, sacrifice and effort have carved out a space where their voices can be expressed. Do we stretch these spaces to include new voices and perspectives? How do we ensure that the systems of exclusion and privilege we challenge, are not practised by us, consciously or unconsciously,.
Jesus’ model of servant leadership included instructing, nurturing and accompanying those who followed him as they grew in the understanding of their discipleship. He showed that humility, love, mercy and justice were inseparable. In our ministry do we stay honest, and authentic in our relationship with God, and others or do our hidden agendas impact how we exercise our leadership?
Saying yes to a sacred call requires vulnerability, being conscious of and addressing the fears that deter one from living that 'yes' honestly and completely. Let us commit to help one another be effective leaders. May our lives witness our love and faithfulness to God, the Church, and the Good News. As we address the shadow side of the Church, we need to also challenge the shadow side of ourselves. In our fight against exclusion, let us try to live consciously inclusive lives. In our work for the Reign of God, may we testify to the kind of world we are working towards.
Raynah Marise Braganza Passanha
Raynah Marise Braganza Passanha
I call myself a faith and gender rights activist, at this stage of my life’s journey. I began as a teacher in Mumbai with a deep yearning to be involved in teaching the faith and advocating for social justice.
I married and moved to Hong Kong where I was involved with research, documentation, publication and para-legal counselling for domestic workers. My next stage was in Dubai where besides visiting garment factory workers, I went on to study the faith, get involved in the teaching of religious education and Catechesis of youth and adults, and was part of the ecumenical movement with the Middle East Council of Churches.
On my return to Pune, India, where I now am based, I study the Bhagwad Gita besides continuing studying the faith in relation to social concerns - especially with regard to gender justice. Besides faith formation of adults, religious sisters and seminarians, I am currently the National Convenor of the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, a movement of Christian women independent of any Church finding our voice in addressing issues of concern within Churches. I also am part of the Indian Women Theologians Forum, Sisters in Solidarity and the Indian Catechetical Association.
Besides the above, I write on issues that move me and have been published in India and Hong Kong. My life mantra is as long as I have a voice I will use it in any way I can for the spread of God’s reign.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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