Second Sunday of Lent
By Bishop Jane Kryzanowski, bishop of RCWP Canada, Servant-Leader of Mary Magdala Inclusive Catholic Community of Regina, Saskatchewan and member of CTA’s Rio Grande Valley Chapter
God, you are my light, my salvation – whom shall I fear?
Let us bless the light
and the One who gives
the light to us.
Let us open ourselves
to the illumination
Let us blaze
Each year during Lent we are called to give some extra attention to our life-long journey as disciples of Jesus which leads us into the fullness of God’s love for us. As we attune ourselves to the Sacred Scriptures we hear the call to reconnect with the goodness instilled within us and to discover ways that we can live into persons of greater love. We do not journey alone but as part of God’s creation. We travel with the companionship of people of faith around the world – sisters and brothers in the Risen Christ, the Light of the World.
The Second Sunday of Lent challenges us to see ourselves in the light of God. From the breath of creation God said, “Let there be light!” Light enables us to see things differently than we do in darkness. As the day dawns we can see objects, we can detect movement, we can see color, we gain perspective of things in relation to other things as the fullness of daylight comes. And with the ability to see which light gives us, we lose our fear of “things that go bump in the night.” The light of God also enables us to see our attitudes and actions in different dimensions. As we allow the Light of God to shine upon us we can see ourselves as God sees us, and be seen as God sees us. And we do not need to be afraid because our God is all Goodness and Love.
In our first reading, Abraham is asked to look at the stars and see himself as one favored by God with a destiny beyond his imagination. He dared to journey into the unknown and allow God to fulfill through him the promise of a great nation. We regard him as a great ancestor in faith. In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, three of the disciples who were leaders in the early church are given the opportunity to see Jesus in a different light from which they were accustomed. In radiant light and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, Jesus is presenting them with a future vision and inviting them to be part of his destiny. This is beyond their imagination and Peter proposes three tents to fix the moment rather than let it unfold into the unimaginable. Going down the mountain they found it hard to get their heads around what “rising from the dead” could mean. Only later, after the Resurrection, did they begin to understand.
As I allow myself to be drawn into these images of light and feel their energy surge in my soul I ask myself what of my original goodness can I connect with? Where can I allow myself to be challenged to go beyond where I am now to be a more faithful disciple of Jesus? How can I radiate the light of God’s all-embracing love and be a bearer of the Good News? What fears do I have that are unfounded in the light of God’s love for me?
First, I am able to see that I am God’s beloved. I didn’t always think of myself that way. My memories as a child are that of being bad. How could God love a bad girl? It took a long time for me to overcome that perception – first to see myself as OK, then later that I was loveable. My self-seeing is stretched to new vision as I get to know more people who mirrored to me my own goodness.
Second, allowing myself to be seen as God sees me challenged me to reject the definitions that have been applied to me by the Church, and to accept what I have known for many years but which had to lay hidden most of my life: “Women can be priests.” The institution says, “No. Women can’t be priests.” With the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002, my vocation was reawakened by new possibilities. Now ordained, I am continually challenged to be open to where God is leading me because I do not know where that is. It is a day-by-day, sometimes minute-by-minute, journey of faithful love.
It is really hard to be rejected by the Church I love and have served for many years in pastoral ministry because I dared to say “yes” to God’s call to sacramental ministry. The call to ministry is rooted in Baptism which is the same for men and women. How is it that any male priest’s vocation to priesthood is more authentic than mine because he is a man and I am a woman? How is it possible that more than half of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are women, yet the call to sacramental ministry can be recognized in the less than 50%? How is it that the decisions that affect all Catholics are made only by men at the top of its structure?
Third, as a woman who has dared to claim her divine call to leadership in a church that rejects her, I am called to speak about the injustice women around the world experience. God’s daughters are victims of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. I do not find this an easy thing to do and fear often rises up in me. Nonetheless, strength comes from standing under the stars and remembering the promise of a new tomorrow.
According to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. Since it was established in 1947 with the mandate to assess and monitor the status of women around the world, much exposure has been given to their welfare. Sexual abuse, domestic violence, and economic exploitation are the top three issues identified in a 2018 Ipsos survey of 28 countries conducted by the International Women’s Day Movement. Emotional and spiritual abuse are not easy to measure as other factors but are none the less real.
We do not have to look far to see the suffering that systems of patriarchy and power cause for women. Many of us know someone who was raped, physically abused, or exploited in some way. Perhaps that one is you. We can pick up any paper and read the news of honor killings in some cultures, sex trade trafficking elsewhere, the use of women and children as human shields in war/conflict zones, women not being able to care for themselves or their children properly because of a lack of job security or an adequate wage. Women in marginalized social groups are more likely to be victimized because options for a better life are often limited or closed off to them.
As people of faith we look to our church leaders for guidance. Sadly, the Church has failed to be a light for justice for women and girls. It may say it advocates for the welfare of women but it does not allow gender justice in its own house. Vatican II spoke out against every type of discrimination in its document on the Church in the Modern World. Yet, papal documents of Pope John Paul II continue to deny women any role in the leadership of the church and attempt to fossilize that position as infallible. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of women and men being created equal by God and being equals in Christ by Baptism. What kind of example is that to the rest of the world? Today, women are asking why the Church is so slow in recognizing their value and opening governance and ministerial roles to them; roles that incorporate their faith, gifts, expertise and education into structures of authority at all levels.
Let us go out and look at the stars and allow ourselves to see as God sees. What can we imagine as God’s vision for justice for women in church and civic societies of the world? Perhaps we can look at the opportunities offer to us this month of March which is observed as Women’s History Month. It is a time for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also making a call to action to work even harder for justice for women. Actions are being held around the world that will bear light on the sins of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. These are opportunities for us to put our faith in action.
Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. This is true for the churches and well as for nations of the world. UN Secretary-General António Guterres lays out the challenge for us all: “Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.” I will extend that: “Not until the half of our church population, the women and girls, can live free from misogyny and patriarchal subservience can we truly say we belong to a church that is the People of God.”
What can we do? Each of us has power to act for justice for women and girls. You can start by connecting with your local YWCA for ideas, or you may want to pursue one of the following:
- International Women’s Day Movement – This year’s theme of #Counterbalance and #BalanceForBetter, focuses on gender balance which is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
- Voices of Faith invites you to let your voice be heard through their #overcomingsilence global campaign. This year’s global theme ‘balance for better’ will serve as a reminder to current leaders of religious institutions, governments and business: when you better the balance, you better the world.
- Join Women’s Ordination Worldwide for a 30-minute phone-in prayer experience for the World Day of Prayer of Women’s Ordination on Monday, March 25, at 2 pm EST/7 pm GMT. Against those who seek to silence us, we raise our voices in hope.
Let us go back to looking at the stars with Abraham and envision a people where all are regarded as equal in the sight of God and reflections of divine light. Let us stand on the mountain with Jesus and leaders of the early church and allow ourselves to be present to the glory of God proclaiming Jesus “beloved” and know that is God’s definition of us, too. Let us allow the light of God fill us. Let us open our eyes, our ears, our hearts to vision a destiny beyond our imagination – one that includes justice and equality of women and men in a church that claims to be the Body of Christ. And let us not be afraid of those who wish to hold on to power and control that keeps women from knowing and living in the fullness of who they are and are called to be. Following a radical teacher is challenging. Jesus is constantly challenging us to look and look again, to listen and listen again, to love and love again. Let us believe the promise of human solidarity in transformation: what has happened to Jesus will happen also to us.
Questions for Reflection:
- What of my original goodness can I connect with?
- Where can I allow myself to be challenged to go beyond where I am now to be a more faithful disciple of Jesus?
- How can I radiate the light of God’s all-embracing love and be a bearer of Good News?
- What fears do I have that are unfounded in the light of God’s love for me?
When exposed to the light of Christ as the disciples were on Mt. Tabor, do I crouch in fear and attempt to freeze frame the experience at its surface (build tents) rather than enter the experience and allow its transforming wisdom to come over me and confirm me in the truth of everyone being God’s beloved?
Over the roar of patriarchal and political propaganda, can I hear the voices of women who are politically oppressed, sexually and verbally abused, fleeing terror as refugees, or struggling for economic justice? What will I do to make a difference for them?
Suggestion for Almsgiving:
Jane Kryzanowski of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, is a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. She is Servant-Leader for Mary of Magdala Inclusive Catholic Community in Regina and Bishop for RCWP Canada. She is also a member of CTA and is active with the CTA’s Rio Grande Valley Chapter when she is in Texas each winter.