March-International Women’s Day
In Jesus’ day women were treated as second class citizens. They existed in relation to the men in their society as daughter or wife and had no existence in their own right. They were to walk behind their husbands and were barred from the synagogues when they were menstruating. It is extraordinary the number of occasions in the Gospels that Jesus challenges the gender norms of his time. He teaches Mary as a disciple, recognises the greatness of the widow who is giving two meagre copper coins as an offering and engages in lively dialogue with a Samaritan woman who very quickly goes out to evangelise!
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 1Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Reflection: Shannon Philip International programmes Officer
As part of my PhD research, I spent one year living in New Delhi in India, trying to understand how lives of Indian young people are changing as India itself changes as a country.
One thing I found startling during my experience was how young educated and smart women in India physically moved around Indian cities. They enjoyed many of the successes of development like access to good education, good jobs and the ability to shop and walk around freely, but I found that women used “closed” body postures and body language.
These “closed” movements of women were in stark contrast to what I found to be the “open” body postures of young men who walked around with very little fear or concern. Young men would often sit sprawled on trains and buses in Delhi and go about their day in carefree ways.
These findings led me to think about how, even with modern “successes”, women in many parts of the world live very different lives to men in the same societies.
Prayer for International Women’s Day
Help us to see past gender stereotypes to embrace your loving vision where all are cherished.
Enlighten us so that we may perceive our own hidden greatness and that of others.
Liberate us so that we may reach beyond the constraints of cultural norms which may restrict us.
Guide us so that we may choose that which is better, rather than that which is expedient.
Give us eloquence so that we may speak out for all who are oppressed.
Give us courage so that we may stand up against injustice.
Give us creativity so that we may find new solutions to old problems.
Give us vision so that we may see the world as you see it.
And give us wisdom so that we may become instruments of change.