22 Feb Woman, Why are you crying?
Jesus knew that one of His disciples would betray Him, another would deny Him and all would desert Him. The inner three could not stay awake in Gethsemane. With their hearts deeply troubled and bodies totally exhausted, they fell asleep. Finally, the betrayer came and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
What about the women? Joanna, Susanna, Mary Magdalene and many other women were healed by Jesus. Along with the disciples, they had joined Jesus on that last long journey all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem. They witnessed Him preach, teach, heal and minister to all who came to seek Him. These women supported the group out of their own resources (Luke 8:1-3).
In Jerusalem, they witnessed the events of the last week just before the Passover (John Ch. 12 ff). They were the witnesses of His trials, passion and the unjust verdict to crucify Him. They had walked Via Dolorosa up to Golgotha and seen their Master on the cross from a distance. Along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, they too had experienced the sword piercing their souls. They stayed till the end with John, Nicodemus and Joseph of Aremthea till His body was embalmed, covered with a linen cloth and laid to rest according to Jewish customs. Most importantly, they had noted His tomb.
After the Sabbath was over early before the daybreak while it was still dark, it was Mary and other women had reached the tomb to embalm His body with precious spices they had prepared for their Master. Weeping and seeking His body, she heard the voice of the angels; “Woman, why are you
Again she heard; “Woman, why are you crying?” Still in grief, she heard the voice of her Master lovingly calling her; “Mary!” She immediately recognized the voice of her revered Rabboni who had healed her from the excruciating pain of evil oppression. She was filled with the light of a million mornings, as she worshipped the risen Son of God. Mary was commissioned by Jesus to go and tellHisbrothers that He is risen. Truly, she was an apostle to the apostles. She announced to them; “I have seen the Lord!”
The Gospel writers have carefully noted Jesus’ kind and compassionate treatment of women. He was so tender and empathetic to each of them. It did not matter whether it was the Samaritan woman at the well, or the uninvited guest at the home of Simon the Pharisee or the one caught in the act of adultery. He forgave them all and granted profound inner healing.
Mary of Bethany was appreciated for sitting atHisfeet and learning. Jesus was equipping her to continueHisteaching ministry as he had equipped the apostles. Housework was important but more essential was to sit with Him and learn about Him. Martha was gently admonished for worrying with too much work. Later this Mary lavishly anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume. It was to foretellHisdeath. The one, who raised their brother Lazarus from the dead, was to die a cruel death for the salvation of all.
Aren’t we fortunate? We are highly privileged to have this divine revelation so freely given to us of who God is, what He has done for us and the hope of a glorious future.
But who shall cry for the daughters of our nation? The evidence of discrimination, marginalization, exclusion, and oppression cannot be stronger: the terribly imbalanced sex ratio in disfavour of women and girls and millions of missing women from the country’s population (Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian. New Delhi: Penguine Books, 2005. P. 226).
Very strong son preference, anti-female bias, female feticide, female infanticide and the overall neglect of the girl child result in systematic elimination of girls.
Early marriages and motherhood, repeated pregnancies result in high maternal mortality. Malnutrition and early death are their lot in a country known for its surplus food production. Women generally eat the last and the least in Indian homes.
Insufficient and ill-managed healthcare facilities for common people, violence against women at home and on the streets, rape, eve teasing and customs like devdasi, child marriage, enforced widowhood for life, purdah, seclusion, levirate marriage, hypergamy, dowry system, dowry harassment, dowry deaths, bride burning and the host of them perpetuate oppression and exploitation of women over generations.
The exclusion of girls and women from literacy, education, skill training, and non-formal training keep them outside the mainstream of opportunities. Today an average schooling years of Indian women comes to 3.2 school years (Outlook: 29 Feb. 2016, P. 36). Millions of children are still outside from schools in spite of the Right to Education Act.
The denial to education keeps women in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs in the farms, factories, construction sites or as domestic maids. They work for the survival needs of their families. They are found in unorganized sector and secondary job markets with low status, low wages jobs. Moreover, their contribution to the national economy goes unrecognized.
One of the UN Reports shocked the world stating that women constitute half (50%) of the world’s population, they work 2/3 (66%) of the world’s work, earn 1/10 (10%) of the world’s income and own less than 1/100 (-1%) of the world’s property.
Since 2,000, India’s GDP has tripled but the women’s per capita income is less than that of the women in Papua New Guinea and Ivory Coast. According to 2014 UN Human Development Index, women in India rank between Myanmar and Rwanda (Outlook: 29 Feb. 2016, P. 36).
Space is not enough to examine other aspects of discrimination against women: their triple workload at home, work, and community, limited opportunities for rest, leisure and restoration, their participation in decision-making bodies or in local, regional and national polity.
The voice that asked that early Easter morning: “Woman, why are you crying?” should sensitize the privileged minority like us in the UESI. The risen Lord Jesus is the hope of the powerless, voiceless and faceless excluded masses. But He needs us to transform the world order. Not as helpless victims of our contexts but as empowered and honourable vessels to be instruments of transformation.
What happens to these excluded masses of women? They do get included in unfavourable and dysfunctional realities such as sweet-shops, readymade garment industries, as domestic maids or in global sex trade. Displaced from their homes and communities, they are trampled upon, uncared for, used up and thrown away. They suffer diseases and die early.
Much has been accomplished by those who have gone before us and laid their lives. Yet there is a long way to go. He will use us if we are committed to become salt of the earth and the light of the world. We long for the fulfillment of Prophet Amos’ prayer: Let justice flow like a mighty river and righteousness like a never ending stream.
The author is a retired lecturer in Sociology, Religion and Biblical Studies. She lives in Bangalore with her husband Thomas Paul. She is associated with the UESI since her student days in Gujarat.