Today, we invite you to explore women at the forefront of human history, and the Easter story with the help of Asian feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan; engage the importance of solidarity in Catholic social thought; and embody the the gravity of women’s role in Christian history through artist Francoise Bosteel.
So Peter said to them,
“I begin to see how true it is that God shows no partiality —
rather, that any person of any nationality who fears God
and does what is right is acceptable to God.
“You yourselves know what took place throughout Judea,
beginning in Galilee with the baptism John proclaimed.
You know how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power,
and how Jesus went about doing good works
and healing all who were in the grip of the Devil,
because God was with him.
We are eyewitnessesto all that Jesus did in the countryside
and in Jerusalem.
Finally, Jesus was killed and hung on a tree,
only to be raised by God on the third day.
God allowed him to be seen, not by everyone,
but only by the witnesses who had been chosen beforehand by God
— that is, by us, who ate and drank with Christ
after the resurrection from the dead.
And Christ commissioned us to preach to the people
and to bear witness that this is the one set apart by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To Christ Jesus all the prophets testify,
that everyone who believes has forgiveness of sins
through this Name.”
Response: This is the day Our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
I give thanks to You, Adonai, for You are good, / Your love is everlasting!
Let the house of Israel say it, / “Your love is everlasting!”
R: This is the day Our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
Our God’s right hand is winning, / Our God’s right hand is wreaking havoc!
No, I will not die, I will live / to recite the deeds of the Most High.
R: This is the day Our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
It was the stone rejected by the builders / that proved to be the keystone.
This is Our God’s doing / and it is wonderful to see.
R: This is the day Our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
Since you have been resurrected with Christ,
set your heart on what pertains to higher realms,
where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.
Let your thoughts be on heavenly things,
not on the things of earth.
After all, you died, and now your life is hidden with Christ in God.
But when Christ — who is your life — is revealed,
you too will be revealed with Christ in glory.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
This boasting of yours is an ugly thing.
Do you not know that even a little yeast has its effect all through the dough?
Get rid of the old yeast to make for yourselves fresh dough, unleavened bread, as it were;
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.
So let us celebrate the feast
— not with the old yeast, the yeast of corruption and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
*Please Note: The lectionary assigns John 20:1-9 as the gospel reading for Easter Sunday, eliminating his Resurrection appearance to and commissioning of Mary Magdalene. Instead, this passage (11-18) is reserved for Easter Tuesday, when fewer Catholics are likely to hear it. We urge you to – wherever possible – read the Resurrection narrative including 11-18 as presented here. View FutureChurch’s “Gospel Restoration” project materials for more information.
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple and told them,
“They have taken the Rabbi from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out toward to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first; bent down and saw the burial cloths there,
but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the scripture
that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
Then the disciples returned home.
But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her,
“Why are you weeping?”
She said to them,
“They have taken my Rabbi,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said,
“Please, if you carried Jesus away,
tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni!,” which means my Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to God.
But go to the sisters and brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Abba God and your Abba God.’”
Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Teacher,” and what the savior told her.
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
It’s always striking that the first to witness the empty tomb were women. Women have been at the forefront, and yet hidden, in many of the key events of human and salvation history, particularly women of color. Women’s voices and contribution have often been overlooked, as seen poignantly in the anecdote by activist Sandi Toksvig:
Years ago, when I was studying anthropology at university, one of my female professors held up a photograph of an antler bone with 28 markings on it. ‘This,’ she said, ‘is alleged to be man’s first attempt at a calendar.’ We all looked at the bone in admiration. ‘Tell me,’ she continued, ‘what man needs to know when 28 days have passed? I suspect that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’
Asian feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan increases the visibility of women in her work on Asian feminist theologies, bringing to the fore the voices of women whose efforts are both visible and yet also invisible in the work of justice. Through decolonizing Christianity, Kwok questions how women are often left on the sidelines, given not only the patriarchy and misogyny found in the church hierarchy and Christian tradition, but also because of patriarchy and misogyny found in our cultures and social milieu. This patriarchy and misogyny is often unconsciously perpetuated – while church leaders or socio-cultural or economics leaders of all genders might say they are inclusive, putting vulnerable populations such as women at the forefront of their agendas, their actions and unconscious habits might tell another story. These actions of eclipsing women may not be fully intended or deliberately chosen; however, the instances of women being marginalized ask us to reflect on how women are sidelined in often unconscious and subtle ways. We are thus invited to be sensitive to the ways women might be put down by both individual behavior and systemic oppression.
Kwok’s work prioritizes women, particularly women from Asia, responding to the common reasons as to why women have seemingly lesser roles in church tradition (see her work Introducing Asian Feminist Theology). For Kwok, the lesser treatment of Asian women in particular is a function of both misogyny in Christian tradition, and certain ways of understanding purity and womanhood in various Asian cultures and religious traditions – many of which go unquestioned. Kwok analyzes the way power is exercised in various cultures and within the Christian churches, and shows that what is often at work is the “power-over” model, where domination and control undergird the community. “In the Christian context, this hierarchical pyramid is supported by the belief that God is at the top, followed by the male, then the female, and then other categories of creation. The exercise of power is non-reciprocal, which often leads to an imbalance or even abuse of dominant power” (106).
There is a need, instead, for power-with-others, grounded in the assumption that we are all interrelated and our well-being is bound up together, rather than individuals who are in it only for themselves. Such power assumes an authority that is communal and shared, that focuses on justice and accountability for all. It allows the laity a deeper share of the ministry, given that the Christian hierarchy puts the male clergy on top; the Asian context that honors the elderly and father of the household; and male clergy who “act as patriarchs of an extended family” (107). In the face of many struggles, Kwok, as well as many other Asian Christian women, have sought to build bridges and networks to articulate and live out inclusive faith communities based on this form of power. This kind of power is what can help transform the church into a community that genuinely is for justice for all, especially its most vulnerable and marginalized members.
Lifting marginalized voices, such as those of women, from the margins is a mark of solidarity that is a core principle of Catholic social thought. The Catholic social vision is one marked by solidarity – a persevering commitment to the common good, including those at the margins. The conditions for the flourishing of creation assume our close connections, and that communal living is not a zero sum game. The good of one is related to the good of others, and the virtue of solidarity invites us to reflect on how we can commit to a mutual good. John Paul II puts it well in Sollicitudo rei socialis:
In a world divided and beset by every type of conflict, the conviction is growing of a radical interdependence and consequently of the need for a solidarity which will take up interdependence and transfer it to the moral plane. Today perhaps more than in the past, people are realizing that they are linked together by a common destiny, which is to be constructed together, if catastrophe for all is to be avoided. From the depth of anguish, fear and escapist phenomena…the idea is slowly emerging that the good to which we are all called and the happiness to which we aspire cannot be obtained without an effort and commitment on the part of all, nobody excluded, and the consequent renouncing of personal selfishness. (26).
Genuine development of vulnerable communities, including women, requires solidarity and a determination:
…based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and ‘structures of sin’ are only conquered – presupposing the help of divine grace – by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one’s neighbor with the readiness, in the gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself’ for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage (38).
Solidarity is thus not just pity or charity, but rather a commitment done everyday to consciously challenge unjust systems, traditions, and cultures. Given the patriarchal and misogynistic foundation of the Christian tradition, and other cultures that keep women from genuine flourishing, this solidarity work includes bringing about a power-with-others form of power, rather than a power-over models.
We invite you to join Mary Magdalene as she journey’s to the empty tomb: What is going through your mind? What dangers do you face? Why are you risking them?
Next, stand with Mary as she encounters the empty tomb: What are you feeling?
Now, sit with Mary as she alone remains at the empty tomb: Where have the others gone? Why are you still there?
Stay with Mary and hear your name called too: Do you recognize the Risen Christ calling your name? How do you recognize it? What is the Risen Christ asking of you?
Finally, set out with Mary: Where are you going? To whom are you going? What will you do and say?
Francoise Bosteels, who I met in 2018 during the Ecclesia of Women in Asia conference, creates beautiful dolls depicting scenes from the Bible. Her website reads: “She trained as a nurse, but in 1965 she joined the Sisters of the Divine Saviour in France. She came to India in 1974 and worked in health education programs and in leprosy prevention and care in South Tamil Nadu villages. The village life, people’s closeness to nature and the beauty and simplicity of their lives were her first inspiration in the creation of dolls.” Her work depicts everyday life, women in scripture, and aims to show their key roles and place in the stories we often hear from Scripture. She is based in Bangalore, India.
Her artwork serves as an invitation for us to reflect on how important women are and have been in the work toward justice and the Kingdom of God. How can we continue to lift up women’s voices (and other voices at the margins!) in ways that make visible the hidden labor of many women today?
The Magnificat by Francoise Bosteels
Image description: On a brown wooden table set against a white background, with the backs of black chairs visible set around the table, are four dolls on a beige platform. In front of the dolls, sitting on the table, is a green leaf with a tea candle placed on it. At the feet of each doll are sprinkled small white petals or pebbles. Each figure has dark brown skin, and is in a position of dancing. The first, on the far left, wears a red top and long skirt with an olive green cape that covers her head and flows down her back. She plays a white clarinet-like instrument. Gold jewelry adorns her forehead and wrists. The next figure wears a similar outfit, with green underneath and dark purple over top, and she plays a tambourine. The third and fourth figures are in positions of dancing, one wearing a yellow sari with a green blouse underneath, and the other in a blue sari with yellow underneath.
The Annunciation by Francoise Bosteels
Image description: On a brown wooden table set against a white background, with the backs of black chairs visible set around the table, are two dolls on a beige platform. On the left stands a brown woman wearing a white blouse and skirt, and an orange hair covering that flows behind her. She wears gold jewelry at her forehead, earrings, and wrists, and holds a gold chalice. To her right, bowed on one knee, is a figure wearing a peach-colored tunic and white bottoms. They hold out a brown bowl with a loaf of bread in it. In front of the two figures is a larger brown urn with a tea candle inside.