The National Catholic Review

He is not here. He is risen!” Two thousand years after the resurrection these words still have the power to startle us. When the women disciples first heard those words, they did not know what to make of them. The Easter alleluia came only after the disciples’ repeated encounters with the Lord. Their first reactions were confusion, curiosity, disbelief. The community was hidden away in fear and grief until Jesus breathed his Spirit upon them. Today, as we grapple with the loss, disillusionment and brokenness in our own lives and in our church, those first encounters with Thomas, Mary and Peter, should be signals for us of the power of the Resurrection to heal and unite us in the body of the risen Lord.

The Easter story is full of paradox and surprise. Consider Jesus’ wounds. Even in his risen glory, Jesus carried with him the signs of his suffering. Yet his woundedness did not prevent him from commissioning the disciples to preach. We too live in a wounded world, riven by sin and division, yet we still find our way to the empty tomb, to proclaim the glory of his resurrection.

The Apostle Thomas was the first to confront Jesus’ wounds. Jesus challenged the doubter to touch his side to confirm that he had risen. Jesus’ wounds are a reminder of his suffering and death. Though he is risen from the dead, Jesus has not abandoned the deepest marks of his life on earth. Far from scolding Thomas when he refused to believe, Jesus invited him to feel his wounds and thus welcomed him back to the community of believers. Like Thomas, we are invited to probe Jesus’ wounds and to proclaim our faith in him. By his wounds, “we are healed.” Jesus’ wounds speak of his patient presence in the frail humanity that makes up the church. In his brokenness, we are made whole.

Jesus’ wounds are also signs of his solidarity with a broken world. They invite us to see the face of God in those who suffer in our world: the victims of war, disease and natural disaster, the victims of torture, exploitation and repressive government. When we fall prey to anger or jealousy, or resign ourselves to apathy, we contribute to the suffering in our world. By allowing a broken relationship to fester or by failing to attend to the poor in our lives, we deepen Jesus’ wounds. The wounds of Jesus in glory are reminders that his Spirit can empower us to bring comfort, healing and justice, just as he did.

In our church, too, we see signs of Jesus’ suffering. The departure from the church of young Catholics, especially women, is a source of great sadness. Women religious helped build the church, and for centuries mothers passed on the faith to their children. Yet too often today women’s voices, even distinguished ones, are dismissed. Without the support and perspective of women, the Catholic community is a sorely wounded one. Catholic women should know that just as Jesus had remarkable friendships with women during his public ministry, so Christ finds joy in their company today. They should be confident, too, that just as he sent Magdalene as “the apostle to the apostles,” the risen Christ will have pioneering missions for them today among the people of God.

Like Mary and the apostles, we are called upon to proclaim Christ’s rising, but we must not be afraid to accept our own wounds. We are a sinful people, and the church is marred by our sins. Yet these failings must not be an obstacle to our evangelization. How do we move ahead? In his company. There Jesus will bind up our wounds so that we may embrace the joy of the Resurrection.

Think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times on the night of his trial. By refusing to acknowledge his bond with Jesus, Peter placed himself outside the Christian community. But Peter wept over his betrayal, and then Jesus sought him out, invited his love and commissioned him to “feed my sheep.” Peter, the first among the apostles, was always an imperfect disciple. His love for Jesus was not sealed until his death, when he was led, in perfect identification with his Lord, “where he would not go.” Jesus reconciled Peter with the community of disciples. He recognized the wounds of division and healed them. By doing so, he enabled Peter to embark on his ministry. Jesus shows us the path to unity and inclusion.

By meditating upon the Easter mystery, we can discover the healing grace that Jesus brought to the early community of disciples and that he continues to pour out upon us today. Celebrating the Easter story deepens our companionship with the Lord and with one another. Just as Jesus commissioned Mary and Peter and then all those gathered around him in Jerusalem, he continues to commission us to spread his good news with joy to the men and women of our day. The wounded Christ helps us to live in a wounded world. The risen Christ can help us to redeem it.

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Lisa Weber | 4/8/2012 - 9:19pm
@ Mary,
Is there a response or just a repetition?  Easter blessings either way.
Mary McCaffery | 4/7/2012 - 10:27pm
Many women have made their mark in corporate America and other venues.   They are well versed in dealing with men - adult to adult.
It is almost insulting to suggest that we need instruction in leadership and aggressiveness.

What we need is a break in the brick wall or, in my opinion, access to the pulpit.   Why can't a woman give a homily during Mass?   Wouldn't it be interesting to hear a woman's insights into the parable of the woman at the well - or - the thoughts we might share with Mary on the upcoming birth of her chiild - or - the pain of a mother who witnessed the very public, painful death of her son.

Women bring a different perspective to many passages in the Bible.
Women's presence in the pulpit would enrich our understanding of the Scriptures and allow disenfranchised members of the Church to have a VOICE.
Lisa Weber | 4/7/2012 - 9:22pm
@ Mary
I appreciate your comments, but it is not true that women have much, if any, understanding of how men lead.  The Catholic church, the masculine part, has a culture very similar to an industrial construction site.  I have been in both for a matter of years.  I find it almost impossible to explain to women how masculine and feminine cultures differ, but there is no doubt that they are very dissimilar.  The first thing to learn is that a different culture exists.  The second is to learn how it differs.  That masculine cultures are much easier to tolerate explains a lot about why men get to the executive suite ahead of women, even though it is true that women face discrimination.  The fact that women undermine each other and fail to mentor only adds to the problem.  I also have spent a matter of years in a very feminine work culture, and feminine aggression is finally becoming a topic in professional magazines in that culture.

Yes, women read and understand Scripture in a manner different than men, and the Church needs a feminine viewpoint.  Women need a voice in the Church.  I agree wholeheartedly with that.  But we aren't going to make much progress until we realize that we are talking across a cultural divide, and learn how to speak the same language.
Mary McCaffery | 4/7/2012 - 7:24pm
Many women have made their mark in corporate America and other venues.   They are well versed in dealing with men - adult to adult.
It is almost insulting to suggest that we need instruction in leadership and aggressiveness.

What we need is a break in the brick wall or, in my opinion, access to the pulpit.   Why can't a woman give a homily during Mass?   Wouldn't it be interesting to hear a woman's insights into the parable of the woman at the well - or - the thoughts we might share with Mary on the upcoming birth of her chiild - or - the pain of a mother who witnessed the very public, painful death of her son.

Women bring a different perspective to many passages in the Bible.
Women's presence in the pulpit would enrich our understanding of the Scriptures and allow disenfranchised members of the Church to have a VOICE.
Lisa Weber | 4/7/2012 - 4:50pm
@ Jim  Thank you for your comments

Women will have different leadership roles than men in the Church when the day comes that women have leadership roles at all, simply because women have different strengths and weaknesses than men.  Jesus calls all of us to adulthood in the community, and the community includes everyone.  But the Church is a deeply fractured community where men decide what the community will be, and if it suits men, then the assumption is that it suits women, too.  Being women are never asked, and membership is voluntary, the women who find the community less than satisfactory are given the "my way or the highway" choice.  The Church needs to find a way to ask women what they want, and what women want to build.  Women are entirely capable of creating and building what would nourish them, but the opportunity simply isn't there.  No one is asking women.  No one is giving women an opportunity to speak.  We can have anything we want as long as it can be accomplished without speaking, or money - and then we have to have permission to start on it. 
Women need teaching in how to lead as adults because women haven't been in institutional communities long enough to learn those lessons.  Teaching adult-adult leadership skills is the first step the Church needs to take.  But teaching women how to lead as adults will change the Church also.  No one likes change, but the alternative is decline.
James Palermo | 4/6/2012 - 12:53pm

The responses to this article from women have prompted me to add to my original comment in which I suggested that perhaps too much attention is paid to the suffering Jesus.  By focusing so intently on that aspect of the Easter story, we tend to ignore the significance of other elements, including the role of the women who followed Jesus.  They are the ones who stood in watch; and it was the two two Mary’s at the foot of the cross, while the men were elsewhere. A woman was the first tabernacle and women were the first to proclaim the Lord has risen.  So why is it that women may not continue their historical leadership roles in today’s church? 

Carolyn Disco | 4/4/2012 - 4:46pm
Interesting to compare the men's responses here versus the women's. Very significant disconnect.

James Palermo | 4/4/2012 - 8:45am

Sometime I wonder if too much attention is focused on the suffering Jesus, for as a purely historical event, crucifixion was very common: the two thieves next to Jesus on Calvary suffered at least as long as Jesus…and three hours on a cross was not a long time.  That is not to minimize the significance of the event, but rather to note that even in His suffering Christ was filled with charity…conferring mercy on the thief, praying to His Father to forgive those who condemned Him to the Cross.  The triumph of charity and of love over the evil deeds of humans invites us all  to rise with Christ every day. 

alison donohue | 4/2/2012 - 12:04pm

Beautiful editorial.  Thank you for it.  

As one commentator put it, women indeed work tirelessly to build the church, minister to God’s people, and keep a sacramental life alive in their own families. As someone who has had the privilege of running a leadership group for young adult Catholics for the past four years, I have known women whose faith lives are the center of their identities and whose commitment to justice is bold and courageous, even at the expense of more lucrative careers.  Jesus is very present to them, indeed.  Very few of these fiercely faithful women, however, would tell you that she believes her voice is being heard by those in leadership positions in the Catholic Church. Individual pastors and priests are often quite good at listening and understanding (and becoming friends), but even priests report that they feel powerless before a church leadership that is resistant to difficult, honest dialogue about the issues that affect us all. Perhaps this is why these faithful people identify so closely with Jesus, especially this week, as Jesus’ message of expansive love and compassion is shut out by powerful religious authorities whose preference for order makes Jesus seem like a threat, not an ally.  Many women, the Church’s greatest allies, wait for the day when their voice is not considered a threat, but a gift. The enduring hope is that such a day will come...


Luigi Del Gaudio | 4/2/2012 - 3:27am
"Yet too often today women’s voices, even distinguished ones, are dismissed."  After reading this I feel compelled to say, these statements are not helpful nor do I believe are true.  Who are the leaders today in lay leadership in the Church?  Certainly it is not men.  Take a look around life in the vast majority of parishes, who is teaching those adults who come to join us at the Easter Vigil, who leads our choirs, social justice ministries, bereavement ministries?  Who takes care of our altar societies, widow's ministries and homebound ministries?  Who is leading and teaching our children in Catholic schools, leading fun raisers for them and planning their future?  Who is running our Catholic institutions?  While there are certainly a diminished presence of women religous, lay women are often at the leadership positions still here as well.  To veil an agenda under the guise of "women's voices....are dismissed," in the Church is disingenuous at best and tired and worn out at worst.  Is this another attempt to trot out the issue of women's ordination?  If it is, let me say one thing as a 16 year member of the Catholic clergy, in all this time, with hundreds of families that I've worked with and the countless times I've met with brokenness among women at the parish level, not once is what brings them to their knees and to eventually seek help from their faith community has been because they feel their "voices...are dismissed". It is because their marriage is falling apart; their children are beng destroyed by drugs and countless other tragedies that are part of our human condition.  I may be living in a different Chruch than the one noted in this article, as expressed in the above statement.  The all too glib tossing around of such statements doesn't reflect the reality of the woman I now leading our Church, nor the concerns of the ones seeking help from their faith community.
NORMA NUNAG | 4/1/2012 - 12:37am
Thank you so very much, editors.
Lisa Weber | 3/30/2012 - 11:24am
The Church might consider the concept that women are not allowed to be adults in church, and that is why they leave.  Priests are capable of leading in an adult-adult manner, but that kind of leadership is not taught to women in the Church.  A woman who is a responsible professional outside of church is treated like a child by those occupying the role of "mother" in church.  Women neither need nor want a mother when they come to church, and simply won't tolerate the aggression they face from women in the church.  No one talks much about the problem because women can't talk about aggression between women in any milieu, and being the leadership of the Church is composed entirely of men, they are blind to the problem.  And of course, lingering misogyny continues to be a problem also.

The Church needs an adult-adult leadership structure among the women simply to deal with the aggression between women.  An adult-adult culture is foreign to women, so the clergy will have to teach women that culture.  And somewhere along the way, the Church will also have to allow women a voice in the Church.  It isn't possible to say, "men and women are created equal" and not allow the women to speak publicly at Mass - ever.

It is all but impossible for a woman to make a positive contribution to the Church because women have no leadership structure among themselves and no dialogue with the clergy.  The Church has no way to receive anything from women except housekeeping services.  If a woman wants to cook and clean, the Church offers plenty of opportunities.  If she wants to think and participate in the dialogue of the Church, the door is locked and no one can find a key.
Harold Frost, III | 3/30/2012 - 10:53am

Thank you, Editors, for your piece, "In Thy Wounds, Heal Me."  Please, then, accept this comment in response:  Beneath all the wounds that you mention is the ontological wound, often self-inflicted.  In a Nation, the USA, in which political freedom is so precious, that freedom is often interpreted among her citizens as a personal liberty so libertine that one tends to think that he or she can become whoever one wants.  But each one of us is made in the image and likeness of the Triune God, in a unique, irrepeatable way.  We are born with this personal identity which can be so evident to our parents at the time of our birth.  In our infant or adult Baptism, this identity is coupled in a willing way to the moral law of God through our baptismal vows made on our behalf or uttered by ourselves.  As we grow up, though, we tend to lose sight of who each of us really is as we buy more and more into the false one that others want us to be.  Tension then develops between the real self and the false self.  This tension leads to inner conflict, which often bubbles out into the open in terms of our sinful behavior towards others.  Open conflict within the community then spreads, unity not possible between persons who have chosen their own personal identities.  Unity in the community is possible only when each member willingly accedes to who he or she really is as God the Father had wanted in the first place when in the mystery of the Incarnation he willed that a soul be joined to the body to make up the whole person.  The remedy is simple though difficult, as real self knowledge comes from within rather than from social discourse with another, though each of us can help the other listen for and hear that tiny little voice within oneself saying this is who you are!  But then that takes courage, to be that one that God had made, as there will be so many critics saying fallaciously that such a one does not have a right to exist, only the one we offer you has that right.  Thus, then, the courage to be different in this very particular but holy way, regardless of what others think of us.  Through this courage, then, the wounds of Christ on a Calvary that in our pride we raise up to Him can be healed.

Steve Gethin | 3/30/2012 - 10:52am
The article makes the claim that: "Yet too often today women’s voices, even distinguished ones, are dismissed." This accusation reflects negatively on the Church. Justice demands that an accusation is supported with evidence, so that readers can form their own opinion about whether it is fair.  If there are cases where women have sought to make positive contributions to the Church, consistently with the Magisterium, which have been arbitrarily dismissed on account of their gender, we all need to be aware of them so that we can work to ensure that they are not repeated in future. 

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