Jesus Who Sees Me
One of the greatest joys of my life has been ministering with God’s people. From Philadelphia and D.C. to Houston and Chicago, from Kingston and Nogales to Barcelona and Rome, I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in and through innumerable Catholic institutions and programs. To say that I would not be the person I am without the Church would be a profound understatement.
Alongside this beauty, we know that even in 2022, gender-based discrimination and violence remain painful realities with which we all must reckon. The dehumanization and objectification of women permeate people’s words and actions, as well as our institutions and systems. Even in our beloved Catholic Church, we wrestle with hard questions about the roles of women in our communities. Whose voices do we listen to? What kind of change is possible? How is the Holy Spirit calling us, and who gets to decide? How ought we to balance support and challenge, especially when we love the Church so much?
Like many women living their vocations within the Catholic Church, I suspect, this struggle feels close and personal. As I continually discern my call to discipleship, spending time with Jesus, particularly in the Gospel of Luke, has been invaluable for my spiritual practice throughout Lent, Holy Week, and beyond.
In Luke 8, for example, we meet Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many other women, whose demons or diseases Jesus had healed. The Scripture reads, “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” So not only does Jesus minister to these women. They minister to him as well. In fact, as Jesus travels to preach, teach, and heal, they essentially bankroll him, along with the eleven after his death. Alongside Jesus, these women turn their brokenness to ministry. They even accompany him to the cross in Luke 22, modeling loyalty to Jesus and his mission till the end.
In Luke 10, Jesus turns the status quo for women on its head while hanging out with his best friends, Martha and Mary. He discourages them from spending all their time busy in the kitchen taking care of men. Breaking down barriers, Jesus expresses his desire for his friends to sit with him and be truly present. He longs for these women to soak in the Word, in Scripture and in friendship with him, just like the twelve had been invited to do.
Finally, in Luke 24, the Gospel for the Easter Vigil, we hear the gorgeous Resurrection story, in which the Good News is shared with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. Jesus is Risen! Hallelujah! And in that moment, these women--models of hope, sight, and deep belief--are the Church. Chosen by Christ, according to Luke, “they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others, but their story seemed like nonsense, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.”
The women’s story seemed like nonsense. The men did not believe them. But then Peter got up and ran to the tomb. And the rest is history. This Easter, let’s all take a moment to let that sink in.
Jesus was an ally to women. This was part of his identity, his story. When I teach the book of Genesis to my sophomores, I love the character Hagar - a complicated story for another day. After encountering God, despite her suffering and oppression, Hagar refers to God as “God who sees me” - stunning! Spending time with Jesus in Luke this Easter, I find “Jesus who sees me”...and Jesus who will hang out with me in my simultaneous support and challenge of Christ’s beloved Church.