In my Augustinian commentary for last Sunday, on the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha, I made a crucial oversight which crippled my capacity to understand this important passage. Here I was, talking about the preeminence of contemplation over action, the eschatological framework for understanding moral deliberation, etc., and I missed the most fundamental significance of the narrative: women's equality. I know, I know, you probably missed it too. We're just not trained to spot these things.
Fortunately, Bishop Gumbleton, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Detroit and founding member of Pax Christi, is:
In the reading today, Jesus again broke rules and customs by raising up women and giving them their full dignity and rights. In the time of Jesus, the rules prohibited women from being disciples, and scripture commentators tell us that for someone to "sit at the feet of the master" - in this case, Jesus - was to be a disciple. By showing that women have as much a right as men to be disciples, to follow Jesus, to do his work and minister in his name, Jesus was breaking the customs of the time. That is a very important lesson for us to hear, because we still discriminate against women in our church.
Hmm... Sed Contra: "[The Church] holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church . . . Christ's way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1).
"We discriminate in our church. We exclude and separate. And we should not. By welcoming Mary as his disciple, Jesus showed us that those kinds of barriers have to be broken. Everyone is equal in freedom and dignity in Jesus' community of disciples. We have to learn that very important truth from this incident" (NCR's 'Peace Pulpit'.
Can't see how St. Augustine missed that precise observation as to the applicability of this biblical narrative to women's place in ministry. Plain as day, really.
# posted by Jamie : 8:22 AM