Daughter is not for slaughter, ten million girls killed in 20 years. Is it not far worse than covid? Violence against woman is a shadow pandemic. Yet, women are the greatest force to sustain life in humanity and creation. The coming of Jesus has made a significant turnaround in the lives of women. Mary Magdelene was acknowledged in public and given a place of unmatched recognition and dignity in the college of Apostles, at the resurrection of Jesus.
Transgender persons, widows, the unborn female, the witch, the dowry harassed, the raped and killed, the hunger death all have the right to live with dignity. It is high time to prophecy against oppressive unhealthy domination of patriarchy.
Today’s liturgical readings invite us for a turnaround in our perspectives and call us for enlightened leadership.
Self-propelled utterances are heard in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Being anointed, the prophet bursts forth with the Good News of liberty, healing, freedom, justice and human rights – announcing a time of God’s abundance in the midst of deprivation. Isaiah is being overwhelmed by divine force from within. He sees the transformation Yahweh would bring and he proclaims the power of love-filled presence and the impact it would bring to humanity. Attuned to God’s indwelling he is energized by the Spirit to face the risk of his proclamation. Jesus at his first public appearance at the synagogue inaugurates His mission with Isaiah’s inspiration and makes it His mission manifesto. He inspires us to be bold prophets, denounce the evil of fascism and the marginalization of the poor without fear or prejudice.
The revolutionary song of Mother Mary, with inspiration from Hannah, gushes out in the presence of Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and Jesus. It is the opening up of the grace of God’s abundant goodness flowing through men and women throughout history. It is a narrative of a prophetic outburst of the redeemed of Yahweh, the Anawim, a proclamation of a clear alternative vision. Mary affirms the liberative action of Yahweh ushering in dignity, prosperity, exalting the lowly and denouncing the rule of might, greed, egoism and oppression.
Today, we are challenged to prophesy to the dead bones: “Rise up with new life and power. Do not wait for another to raise you. You have the power within you. With right motivation and clear purpose stand up to acclaim ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me…’” God is on our side to denounce forms of political domination, economic subversion, suppression of descent, pushing the poor to the periphery, and the dismantling of democracy. Let us be bold to be on the side with the poor and be their spokespersons denouncing evil and the deliberate attempt to shut out the poor from sharing the benefits of development. God has already taken their side. How about us?
In my involvement of working with women in empowerment programmes, I have witnessed their hidden power rising up to resist denial of rights and claim their basic needs such as drinking water, regular jobs and access to government schemes. The widows and single mothers rise up with great enthusiasm to dismantle patriarchal domination and experience the power of God coming into their humanity. It is a matter of earnestly seeking and finding the treasure hidden in one’s heart.
We are like John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, gathering the victims of violence and war, assuring comfort and redress to them that tomorrow will never be the same. Their solidarity and experience of “sisterhood” is the key to their collective involvement in action towards transformation. The new society will dawn and the splendour of the most high will shine on their faces.
The personality of the prophet has much to contribute to this social impact. John the Baptist was very clear about his mission: “I am not the one. I am only a sign post to show the light. I am not worthy to untie his sandals.” Such humility and simplicity are the hallmark of the prophet. Endurance of ability to bear the Cross is part of life. Around such a person people rally together for the common cause.
Credibility, intense communion with God, uncompromising commitment, ready to face persecution and the consequence of isolation as well as the collaboration of the people. They ignite the inner power. Thus, imbued with the vision of the prophet, people get motivated and enter into liberative action.
Let us ardently desire it and enlarge the horizon of our focus for peace activism that promotes and upholds the entitlements of all who are at the margins.
The prophetic power of women and men must be harvested together in solidarity, cooperation, and collaboration.
To this end let us pray that we become Peace Activists to protect the institutions of democratic parliaments. That, the judiciary and the executives adhere to the principles of good governance. That, national leaders be impregnated with values of human rights and inclusive democracy. That, the rights of Mother Nature be safeguarded and protected for the wellness of future generations.
Let walls of separation be pulled down, beat swords in to ploughshares, and let the mantle of ‘peace- awakening’ motivate all towards human dignity, and assure a rightful place to the vulnerable. Then we shall exclaim “Are not our hearts burning within us when He talked to us on the way?”
Let compassion flow like a river and let Grace abound. Let women and men of good will rise up to hold hands in creating a new humanity where “God will be all in all”
Stella Baltazar, FMM
Stella Baltazar, FMM
Stella Baltazar is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM). Born in 1952, she hails from the southernmost tip of India. Having earned her master’s degree in Sociology and Theology from the University of Mysore, Stella’s real learning comes from her involvement with the youth as well as women, especially widows. Baltazar had wide mission experience in the empowerment of women as women Development Officer at Coimbatore Diocese where in three years she helped establish 52 women’s associations in the diocese, and felt the power of women from the grassroots and their yearning for liberation from poverty, male domination and cultural oppression. This experience led Stella to seek ways to educate, motivate and mobilize women to emerge with self determination and take collective action for change. It was an experience that empowered her to reflect theologically and develop perspectives on Feminist Theology.
She was then invited by Caritas India to work at the national level with 64 dioceses in 1999 for four years, giving her enormous possibility to move around and learn within India and abroad, while creating networks of women’s organizations at the State level. She also served as consultant to Caritas Switzerland, a Member of Indian Theological Association, as well as president of EATWOT India. She has presented papers at theological as well as justice and peace forums.
Passionate about empowering women, especially widows, she is involved in inter-faith collaboration and also works on ecological concerns. She has moderated provincial chapters of several congregations and served at different levels of leadership in her own, and is presently the provincial of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Ootacamund Province, Tamil Nadu, India.
“My belief is ‘Every event of our life is sent by God for a very special purpose’ as said by our Foundress Mother Mary of the Passion and I am growing in the realization of that purpose. Women were my real life inspiration starting with my own mother.”
Take an opportunity to read and reflect on the Sunday readings during the first five weeks of Lent. Participants are provided with links to reflections on the Lectionary readings (Cycle A) written by scholars -- including weekly preaching from Catholic Women Preach. Then, each week participants share their insights in an online community discussion, guided by a facilitator.MORE INFO/REGISTER
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