On March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day, I was invited by the archbishop celebrant to reflect on the scriptural readings for the third Sunday in Lent in the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria Regina della Famiglia in the heart of the Vatican. It is believed to be the first time a woman has ever had this privilege during the Sunday liturgy at the Vatican. The Gospel passage is John 2:13-25. The Mass began the Voices of Faith celebration of women’s contributions to the Church and world.
All of our lives we are invited into a deeper relationship with Jesus, the better to live lives as Christians. We are called to hear his words and observe his actions in order to emulate him in our own lives. And what do we know about Jesus? He is the radical peacemaker. He tells us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to lay down our lives for others.
So in today’s Gospel it is shocking to see Jesus angry. Anger is such a deeply human emotion and yet because it is Jesus, we know that there is also a divine anger at hand here. It gives us permission to be angry.
Why is Jesus angry in this Gospel passage? He is angry because what is holy, what is a sacred place, is not being reverenced. He is angry because the people present lack all reverence for what is holy in their midst.
When we think of our lives today – March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day – when are we angry? Where is there a lack of reverence for what God deems as holy? Where do we lack reverence? And what could be more holy in God’s eyes than all of creation, the earth, humankind?
We are called in this Gospel today and every day to never be apathetic, to always be angry when we see that what is holy is compromised. We are called to be angry when the dignity of people is compromised. We are called to be angry when there is sexism in the world or in the Church. We are called to be angry when our sisters and brothers live in extreme poverty, the result of unjust structures that we can remedy. It should make us furious that women and children- the most vulnerable- are disproportionately affected by poverty, war, violence, disease. We should be angry when whole generations are being raised in refugee camps. We should be angry when children do not have access to education, or food, or water, or healthcare. We should be angry when sexual abuse and violence is still so prevalent in every part of the world, and that rape is a weapon of war. We should be angry when young girls are kidnapped and sold into slavery. We should be angry that in 2015 human trafficking is a very real, collective sin.
Our invitation today is to claim that anger, and in emulating Christ, to turn that anger into opportunities for action to reverence what God holds dear, what God sees as holy and sacred. And that is surely the very lives of people. Today in a preferential way let us uphold and promote the dignity and full participation of all women and girls in the world and in the Church.
Come to the table of the Eucharist and pray for the grace to never be apathetic when what is sacred is being desecrated. Pray for the grace to always have the strength and sustenance to reverence what God sees as holy and, as Christ did, to act on that with the whole of your life.
Kerry Alys Robinson is the executive director of the Leadership Roundtable and a former consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.