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June 16, 2013

Here is an “ad” on a church bulletin board: “Ladies, please come to the rummage sale this Saturday with your donated items. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.”

Today’s Gospel reading gives us a chance to talk about the presence and importance of women in the Church. After her encounter with Jesus, a woman who has a bad reputation in the community, anoints Jesus’ feet and is no longer a sinner but a close follower of the Lord. The Gospels note that along with the Twelve, there were several women who accompanied Jesus including Mary Magdalene, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and a certain Susanna. The Acts of the Apostles relates that a woman from Corinth, Priscilla, met up with the great scholar Apollos and taught him about Christ. We are all quite aware of the impact of women in our Church, particularly Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, as well as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Catherine and so many more women of God. We are all also aware that most of the ministries of our parish as well as most of the parishes in Canada are led by devoted, fervent women (Happy Fathers’ Day, and we need you, men, where are you?). We’re also aware of many of our women are not treated properly; many of our women are not given the respect that is the natural rights of all women.

Many women suffer from abuse (sometimes by clergy men). Every day we read in the paper about wives and girlfriends of celebrities and sports figures being assaulted. In some other cultures, women are always less important than men. Look at China. Look at Vietnam. With one-child-policy, many baby girls have been aborted or killed when they were just born. Abuse against women is rampant in our society. It has to stop. We all know that it is the sign of a coward for a man to use his physical strength to hurt a woman, but there are many, many cowards among us. One time, I was at a meeting in a remote area of our country. The chief asked the women to stand up if they had been abused. Guess what! About two-thirds of the women present rose from their seats! How sad! There is no place for physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse in our society, or in our Church. No woman has an obligation to put up with any kind of abuses.

Many women have been scarred throughout their lives by sexual abuse. The number of girls who have kept secret the actions of a relative or close family friend is mortifying. There is the secret, hidden abuse against women which, basically, has generated the most funds of any business on the internet. That is the abuse of pornography. All men know that sexual abuse is wrong, and yet, so many men participate in this abuse by paying the abusers, the pornographers.

A large number of our women, our young girls, enter a marriage as virgins. And yes, there are many serious committed young ladies among us who treasure their virginity. And there are also many serious, committed young men among us who likewise treasure their virginity. But, back to the women, sadly, some of these girls become the victims of diseases through their intimacy with their husband. Is that a wedding gift from their new spouse? The concept that an unmarried man can "play around" with others before marriage is an insult and a physical attack on women in general and on the particular woman with whom he eventually seeks to make a life. Is there anyone out there telling young men that not only it is wrong for them to have sex outside of marriage, not only it is wrong for them to expose themselves to various sexual ailments, it is doubly wrong if they plan on sharing their sickness with others?

A final word about a sad situation is that many of our young ladies suffer from the trauma of miscarriage. One day I was called to the hospital and there, a young couple witnessed the death of their still born twins. As a man, I will never know what it is like to feel a child growing inside of me. I will never know what it is like to experience the transformation of my body to nurture a baby. So, how then can I possibly know what it is like to lose a baby? Only those who have had miscarriages can understand what the mother is going through. Therefore, it is so terribly wrong for me or for anyone to say to the mother something such as, "Well, the baby may not have lived long after birth," or "You're young, you'll have another baby," or "It was God's will." Please know that God does not will that evil happen in the world. Bad things result from a world that has chosen the death of materialism over the Lord of Life. The innocent suffers. Yes, maybe the mother will have another baby but another baby will never replace this baby. A member of a family has died. The baby is unique and can never be replaced.

What can we say? What can I, as a priest say? What we can and must say to a family who has lost a child through miscarriage is the same as what we say if a family loses a child in an accident: "I grieve with you for your loss. I pray that God will give you peace. Your child will always be a member of your family, now at peace with God. Let your other children know that they have a brother or sister with the Lord, watching over them." When we hear of someone losing a baby, so many of us are all guilty of making believe that nothing happened. We act as though the pain of the loss has left with the baby. That is not a Christian way of acting. We need to support and care for our women suffering this trauma.

This Sunday the first reading tells us King David after committing adultery committed another sin. He murdered her husband and thought he could get away with it! How many of us have “murdered” women by treating them with contempt and think that we can get away with it? I feel a deep responsibility to call people to respect women among us. Isn’t that what Jesus demands from Simon, the Pharisee in the Gospel today? May God bless you!