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October 10, 2017 - A Good Story for Women, and Not Just for Women

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

As we know very well, in Jesus’s day, women didn’t sit at the feet of great teachers. Men did that. Women focused on domestic labors like preparing a meal, taking care of children, and so forth. That was the order of things then.

In Luke’s story, Martha is doing what she is supposed to do and fulfilling her proper role as a woman. She is not too pleased about it, but not because she thinks she shouldn’t be doing that work. On the contrary, she thinks the other woman in the room ought to be doing it too.

So, she challenges Jesus to show his care for her by getting Mary to help her. And Jesus refuses to do that. Even more, he rebukes Martha who is following the rules and praises Mary who is breaking them on behalf of hearing the good news.

This is a good story for women. And that is not because it teaches women that they should never make a nice dinner for guests again. It’s a good story because it invites women to ask questions about the rules and expectations that culture puts upon them to be “proper” women. Whether those rules are about domestic labors or appearance or anything else, they ought to be questioned and interrogated as to whether they are “the better part,” or something else.

Of course, women were not the only group that Jesus’s culture sought to bar from “the feet of the teacher.” Others—members of certain religious groups, those deemed “unclean”, certain kinds of “sinners”—were also barred. Jesus rebuked Martha for trying to pull Mary away from “the better part.” Surely, he would rebuke us for doing the same, whether to a woman or any other member of an excluded group.

It doesn’t matter who we are, what role we’re supposed to play, or what group we’re in. Jesus’s call is for all of us. Culture’s limits and boundaries have no place in his Kingdom. May we fully embrace both his call and the good news of his radical Kingdom.

- Sue Trollinger