We received a comment on a former post asking for our thoughts on what a woman’s role is to be in the Church. In particular, how a woman can be more active in the Church. I can think of no better day to write this post! – Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation…when the greatest work ever done by a woman was accomplished: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. And we all know the fruit of this Fiat: Et Verbum caro factum est. Our Lady gives us a pattern to follow: radical docility to the Holy Spirit.
In Our Lady’s ‘yes’ we see a reflection of what every women’s main work is to be: to RECEIVE the Word of God into our life, our heart, and our soul. From that union with the Word of God – alive and active within us – flows any service we might be called to perform within the Church. But for that service to bear fruit, we must know and deeply value the absolute necessity of RECEIVING. We must know and deeply value the absolute necessity of encounter and intimacy with Christ.
What a beautiful task is ours as WOMAN: to be the garden where the Word of God can be planted, nurtured, watered and given both room and time to grow, so as to come to fruition.
And then, when the Word of God has taken root in us, we can be free to embrace the task of sharing this Word in such broad and diverse ways – according to the needs of the Church, our own state in life, our gifts, and our generosity…and according to God’s Will. Ecce ancilla Domini
We see this played out in the Gospel from last Sunday – the woman at the well (John4:1-42). For a great reflection on this, check out Fr. Matt Henry’s insights.
Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman in this intimate conversation not because He wanted to shame her, perpetuate her isolation, or leave her in sin. Rather He wanted to be her true Beloved – the perfect One Who would never abandon her.
He planted His Word in her heart:
“The water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
And from this came, quite naturally and with an unforced enthusiasm, her entrance into the bright world of evangelization (spreading the Word). She went into town – to the very people who, in all likelihood, shunned and rejected her, who she avoided on a day to day basis…even going to fetch water when no one else was around. To them, she goes – as one being transformed, as a new woman, as bride, and…get this…as mother. Yes, even as spiritual mother, for suddenly she was fecund with new life and new hope and wanted to bring Christ to birth in other souls: “Come and see…”, she said.
Her activity flowed from her new found love and intimacy with Christ, from her being known by Him. The ‘doing’ flowed from the ‘being’. It was very organic. Free. Unforced. Natural. It became evident – based on her encounter with Christ – how she was called to bring others to Him. Leaving her bucket behind, she ran off to town. Of course, reading this account, we realize gradually the secondary nature of her ‘going out’. First – almost as if it is frozen in time – came her encounter. That is primary. First was her receiving the Word, and her coming face to face with Him…with His Word, His Love, and His desire to give. And even in the midst of her work, this encounter remained primary: “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.”
And to further cement this point, we can see the authenticity of her receiving and giving when we hear those she evangelized say: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” She brought them to Jesus and allowed them to have their own encounter with Him. What a great example she leaves us…her enthusiasm, her desire to share her new found hope, her willingness to leave her bucket behind! To all you women out there: does this now resonate with our feminine hearts?
The greatest activity we can engage in is to encounter Christ, personally, with honesty, transparency and a confident docility to His Will. From this place of peace it will become clear what additional work He desires us to do. From here He will shine His light along our path and reveal His great plans…which are always so much better than anything we could desire for ourselves.