Today, we invite you to explore women’s role in Jesus’s revelation, and its connections to women’s ordination; engage Pope Francis’s thoughts on the role of discernment in Catholic Social Teaching; and embody the discernment of women’s ordination with the help of artist Laura James and Father Anne.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd:
“Women and men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem!
Listen to what I have to say.
People of Israel, hear this:
Jesus of Nazareth was sent to you with miracles,
portents and signs as his credentials —
which God performed through him in your midst, as you well know.
Jesus was delivered up by the set purpose and plan of God;
you even made use of godless people to crucify and kill him.
God freed him from death’s bitter pangs, however,
and raised him up again,
for it was impossible that death should keep its hold on him.
‘I have set Our God ever before me.
God is at my right hand, and I will not be disturbed.
My heart has been glad, my tongue has rejoiced,
my body will live on in hope,
for you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo decay.
You have shown me the paths of Life;
You will fill me with joy in your presence.’ ”
Response: You will show us the path that leads to life.
Protect me, O God, because I come to You for safety.
I say, “You are my God; / all the good things I have come from You.”
You, Adonai, are all I have, / and You give me all I need: / my life is in Your hands.
R: You will show us the path that leads to life.
I praise Our God, who guides me, / and in the night my conscience warns me.
I am always aware of Your presence; / You are near, and nothing can shake me.
R: You will show us the path that leads to life.
And so I am full of happiness and joy, / and I always feel secure;
Because You will not allow me to go / to the world of the dead,
You will not abandon to the depths below / the one You love.
R: You will show us the path that leads to life.
You will show me the path that leads to life;
Your presence fills me with joy, / and Your help delights me forever.
R: You will show us the path that leads to life.
When you pray, you call on Abba God,
who judges everyone impartially
on the basis of their actions.
Since this is so, conduct yourselves reverently
during your sojourn in a foreign land.
Realize that you were delivered from the futile way of life
your ancestors handed on to you,
not by any diminishable sum of gold or silver
but by Christ’s blood, which is beyond all price:
the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb
foreknown before the world’s foundation
and revealed for your sake in these last days.
It is through Christ that you are believers in God,
the God who raised Christ from the dead into glory.
Your faith and hope, then, are centered in God.
That same day,
two of the disciples were making their way to a village called Emmaus
— which was about seven miles from Jerusalem —
discussing all that had happened as they went.
While they were discussing these things,
Jesus approached and began to walk along with them,
though they were kept from recognizing Jesus, who asked them,
“What are you two discussing as you go your way?”
They stopped and looked sad.
One of them, Cleopas by name, asked him,
“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know
the things that have happened these past few days?”
Jesus said to them, “What things?”
They said, “About Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and deed
in the eyes of God and all the people —
how our chief priests and leaders delivered him up
to be condemned to death and crucified him.
We were hoping that he was the One who would set Israel free.
Besides all this, today — the third day since these things happened —
some women of our group have just brought us some astonishing news.
They were at the tomb before dawn and did not find the body;
they returned and informed us that they had seen a vision of angels,
who declared that Jesus was alive.
Some of our number went to the tomb and found it to be just as the women said,
but they did not find Jesus.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“What little sense you have!
How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced!
Did the Messiah not have to undergo all this to enter into glory?”
Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
Jesus interpreted for them every passage of scripture that referred to the Messiah.
By now they were near the village they were going to,
and Jesus appeared to be going further.
But they said eagerly, “Stay with us. It is nearly evening —
the day is practically over.”
So the savior went in and stayed with them.
After sitting down with them to eat,
Jesus took bread, said the blessing,
then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus,
who immediately vanished from their sight.
They said to one another,
“Were our hearts not burning inside us as this one talked to us on the road
and explained the scriptures to us?”
They got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem,
where they found the Eleven and the rest of the company assembled.
They were greeted with, “Christ has risen! It is true!
Jesus has appeared to Simon!”
Then the travelers recounted what had happened on the road,
and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
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.
What is true discipleship? Is discipleship a fully inclusive word, or can it be used to be exclusionary? In the biblical sense, discipleship is radically inclusive. This radical inclusion is the foundation of Jesus’s life. Jesus calls people to himself and creates a community of belonging where the idea of exclusion is condemnable. In John 13:35 Jesus says: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is all that Jesus asks of us when we are presented with the invitation to be his disciple: Are we willing to love as inclusively as he loved?
When we respond to God’s call to be disciples, we are saying “yes!” to live the Gospel as Jesus taught it. As disciples, we allow the Spirit to inspire us so that we may share the fullness of our gifts with our community. In our Church, we have a variety of lay and ordained ministers who dedicate their lives in service to the People of God and have chosen ministry as their life’s vocation. Today, the “signs of our time” point us to an important conversation that has long been going on in the life of the Church: Are women called to be equal disciples in the hierarchy of the Church?
In today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles, it is proclaimed: “All witnesses, through the promise of God and the Spirit, will have new life by seeing and hearing the words of Jesus” (Acts 2:32-33). This passage affirms that “all” are welcome to see and hear; and by doing so, choose to be disciples. There is no exclusion or expectation for “some” over others.
In Mary Magdala: Revisiting the Sources, Marinella Perroni and Cristina Simonelli reveal the beauty of the witnesses of women during Jesus’s life, as well as showing how discipleship devolved to exclude women from ordained ministry in the Church over time. As we heard in the Gospel of Luke, “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women” journeyed alongside Jesus from when he was an unknown prophet in Nazareth. These women stayed with him throughout his ministry in Galilee, saw the miracles he performed, and heard the words he taught to many. These women persisted further and followed Jesus to Jerusalem, where they stayed beside him at the foot of the cross until he drew his last breath. Mary Magdalene and these women were inseparable from Jesus. And thus these women were the first to witness the empty tomb. These women are “present at the first act of the life of the Risen One, the divine epiphany.” Jesus has passed from death to life and so, too, have Mary Magdalene and the other women.
For us today, the hallmark of true discipleship is an inseparability from Christ that is taught to us by these women from Galilee. For this reason, Perroni and Simonelli refer to women as the “receivers of memory” of Jesus Christ. They remember Jesus, the Nazoreon who taught them, shared a table with them, and revealed the glory of the Kingdom of God. Jesus chooses, during his life and now in the resurrection, to make these women his disciples.
Jesus loves his disciples equally and has thus appeared to them all, equally. This is a wonderful invitation for us to pause and consider how an interpretation of the Emmaus story can dismiss the witness of the women and supplants or prioritize one disciple’s encounter with the risen Jesus over another. Perroni and Simonelli explain: “In Luke, this becomes clear: the apostles consider the account of the women an ‘idle tale’ (24:11), and the two disciples of Emmaus confirm the scarce credibility the community of disciples gives to the women’s account (24:22–23). The Galilean female disciples are given an angelic vision and as the mothers” of the resurrection our faith relies on believing them, along with the witnesses of all the disciples, though women throughout time are often disbelieved. If we take them seriously, we can return to the radical inclusivity Jesus intended when he called those he met friends.
Marinella Peroni is professor of New Testament at the Pontifical University St. Anselmo.
Cristina Simonelli is professor of Patristic Theology in Verona.
The article “A Big Heart Open to God: An Interview with Pope Francis” from America Magazine shares Father Anothony Spadaro’s series of three interviews with Pope Francis in August 2013.
Father Spardo asks Pope Francis early on in their time together, “What element of Ignatian spirituality helps you live your ministry?” Pope Francis names discernment first and foremost. He explains, “This discernment takes time. For example, many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change.” In a way, the Church is always in discernment and must constantly consider how it navigates in the modern world, but there are special and intentional times when Church leadership comes together to think and pray.
The question of women’s ordination is one that always existed within the life of the Church. It began with the moment Mary Magdalene brought the good news of the risen Christ to the people. While some heard and believed, others doubted and dismissed her witness. Regardless of whether women’s calls to ordained life are believed or not believed, they are nonetheless disciples and made in the image and likeness of God.
Human dignity is the foundational teaching of the Catholic Church because it establishes who we are as human persons in relationship to our creator and makes us beholden to one another. Human dignity is a great equalizer in so much as it does not see wealth, status, or privilege, but rather it champions the grace that has been given to each of us equally and calls us into discernment when we begin to make an “us” or a “them.”
Pope Francis goes on to share, “Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.” As the Church continues to discern the role of women in ordained ministry, we hold fast to Jesus’s promise that the cries of the oppressed will be heard, and those whose dignity is threatened will be made anew in the resurrection.
“Jesus Commissions Mary Magdalene” by Laura James, commissioned by Rita Houlihan of FutureChurch
Image description: On a background of a green hillside lined with trees, and covered in animals grazing and flying by, Jesus holds his hands over Mary Magdalene. Jesus stands on the right, wearing a white robe. Mary Magdalene stands on the left, wearing an orange robe that covers her head. Both have brown skin. Below the image reads: “Jesus commissions Mary Magdalene.” Jesus then said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Abba God. Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Abba and to your Abba, to my God and your God.’”
The exhibit “Black is Blessed: The Work of Laura James” opened at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture throughout the month of February in New York City. James’s artwork is described by the Archdiocese of New York as “a refreshing and poignantly inclusive visual journey through the Bible.”
Take some time to quiet yourself and gaze at this work of art. Notice the variety of bold colors used. Scan the background and feel yourself step into the piece. Call your attention to the details of Jesus and the positioning of Mary Magdalene. Recall what we read in the Scripture: “Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:10-11).
Feel the tension between James’ depiction of Mary’s commissioning and the dismissing words of the apostles. Notice where the Spirit is present and how Mary receives Jesus. This piece of art is the precursor to the Emmaus story. Meditate with it further and hold it in your heart as you continue to read what happens when Jesus appears to the other disciples on the road. Feel the tension and ask for God’s guidance as we grapple as a Church with the role of women in the hierarchy.
Finally, ask Jesus to accompany you and ask for the same grace bestowed upon Mary Magdalene when she celebrated the risen Jesus. May we walk like Mary and proclaim the good news with our lives.
Image description: Father Anne faces the camera with her arms outstretched, as though dancing. Her head is tilted backward and she is smiling, wearing a black blazer and pants with a white clergy collar, and her brown hair worn long around her shoulders.
Father Anne Tropeano was called by name to ordained ministry in the Catholic Church. God’s desire was clear to Father Anne: Love my people and serve my church. Aware of the restrictions placed on women within the hierarchy of the institutional Church, Father Anne embraces the vocational call she has received from God and chooses to stay in the Church. She writes: “While many have understandably walked away from the Roman Catholic Church, [I] obey the call of the Holy Spirit to collaborate with God on bringing about gender equality in one of the most powerful institutions in the world.”
Father Anne stands on the shoulders of Mary Magdalene and the women of Galilee, bearing witness to the truth of Christ. Father Anne does not wish to supplant or replace the tradition of ordained ministry, but to bring it into complete fullness. The pretext of the story of the women and Mary Magdalene to the Emmaus story, and the witness of Father Anne today, call for true discipleship that is inclusive, equal, and communal.
You can read more about Father Anne here: https://www.fatheranne.com/