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Mosaic: Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

by Gloria Ssali

By D. Werburg Welch

by John Collier

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On the Feast of the Annunciation we celebrate all women who say "yes" to God in the face of difficult circumstances 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation and it has me thinking about the many women throughout our Judeo-Christian history who have said "yes" to God
Vie de Jesus Mafa
when it was costly and dangerous to do so. Along with Mary of Nazareth, Ruth, Hagar, the Syro-Phoenician woman and Mary of Magdala come to mind. 

But today, I am also remembering the many women I had the honor of meeting in Rome during the Voices of Faith event on International Women's Day who daily say "yes" to God as they work to bring healing and hope to those caught in extremely dangerous and often inhumane conditions.

Like Mary of Nazareth, Mukti Bosco, Sr. Marta Pelloni,

Mutki Bosco: photo by VoF / Alessandra Zucconi

Sr. Hatune Dogan, Mary McFarland, Suad Mohamed are all "yes women."  Every day they say "yes" to God's passionate desire for justice and wholeness in the face of impossible, cruel circumstances. They provide healthcare, shelter, protection, education, healing and a reminder of each person's God-given dignity to those who suffer most in this world.  


This groundbreaking Voices of Faith event included a lot

Fr. Orabator: VOF/Allesandra Zucconi

of "yes men" as well. Fr. Agbonkjaianmeghe Orobator SJ brought us a sobering reality as he shared, not only his anger with the lack of response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram from Chibok village in northeastern Nigeria, but also the "unholy alliance" of underlying factors that "militate against the education of the girl-child that we may not simply overlook or ignore."  The crowd fell completely silent as he laid out the horrors too many girls and women face.  As silent tears fell throughout the room, Fr. Orabator urged us all to stand up to the unspeakable and unending violence against women and girls reminding us over and over, "If we listen carefully, there are millions of Chibok Girls in our world shut out of the halls of learning by a conspiracy of cultural complacency, gender discrimination and political short sightedness."


The Opening Eucharist 


Another "yes man," Archbishop Anil Couto of the Diocese of New Delhi, presided over the Voices of Faith opening Mass at Chiesa di Santa Maria Regine della Famiglia along with Bishop Brian Farrell and Fr. Noel Maddhichetty. 


Archbishop Anil Couto


In an exceptionally inspiring Eucharist beautifully organized by Voices of Faith Advisory Board member Elizabeth Donnelly, Archbishop Couto boldly proclaimed the Good News about God's yearning for true equality between women and men in a way not often heard in our Catholic Churches.  First he illuminated how the 'unholy alliance" working to oppress women and girls in society that Fr. Orobator, Sr. Marta and others would speak about later in the day was absolutely contrary to God's plan.

To worship Yahweh alone and no other 
god would indeed imply the full acceptance 
of the truth of the equality of male and 
female both of whom are made in the 
likeness of God and equally share the 
divine imprint. . . . Oppression and exploitation 
occur when the Covenant is forgotten and 
instead the people of God begin to behave according to the dictates of their sinful selves.  
The structural ill-treatment of women in 
society belongs to this tyranny of sin 
whereby we refuse to turn to God with 
all our heart, all our soul and all our mind 
but rather remain fully satisfied with the 
social mores, the tradition and the status 
quo that we do not want to change.
Showing the relationship between the structural sin in society today and its manifestation within religion, a perversion that Jesus could not abide (Jn 2: 13-25), the Archbishop noted, "Our Lord's act of cleansing showed how corrupt religion had become and how much it needed purification.'  Drawing on Galatians 3:28-29 as the covenantal sign Jesus proclaimed in which 'there is no longer male or female", Archbishop Couto made an amazing connection:
This newness [Galatians 3:28-29] which is the intrinsic nature of the Church should 
also be her external mark and her visibility.  
Only then will she be truly the sign and 
instrument and sacrament of the Kingdom 
of God as Lumen Gentium states so boldly.  
The International Women's Day calls the 
Church to this reflection and brings to her awareness her responsibility to challenge 
the world to the newness of the Gospel.  
The Church cannot succumb to the culture 
of the world and be domesticated by it but 
rather the Church should stand against the prevailing culture and its dominance as a 
sign of contradiction even as the Lord himself became a sign of contradiction.  Only when 
the Church is ready to be cleansed by the 
Holy Spirit at every moment of all her dross 
will she be able to cleanse the world of its sinfulness and lead the world to the fullness 
of life in Christ.
Recalling the many messages I have heard in my lifetime as a Catholic that have not been empowering for women, I have to admit as I write these words, my eyes fill with tears of gratitude for Archbishop Couto's courage, clarity and prophetic witness.  He shows a way for others in leadership to bear witness to the Gospel call for equality within the Church.  He also demonstrates how a cleansed Church, a Church that stands against the prevailing norms of sexism can become a beacon of light engendering a whole new level of trust and inspiration for its mission in the world.  

In another extraordinary "first" inside the Vatican, after Archbishop Couto gave the homily, he invited Kerry Robinson to share her reflections. Amazingly, without a script, Kerry talked about the angry, whip-hurling Jesus found in John's gospel, an image too often watered-down from the pulpit.  Yet, Kerry told us that we should claim this holy anger, turning it into opportunities to reverence God's vision and to work for the justice that God holds dear.  Below is the complete transcript of her reflections. 

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 



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 



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 dispro-

portionately 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 is another "yes woman" who knows God's heart as well as the hearts of many other women and men in the Church who long for a day when God's justice prevails and when women will participate fully in society and in the life of the Church.  

With Mary of Nazareth and Mutki, Sr. Marta and Fr. Orabator, Sr. Hatune and Kerry and so many other prophets and healers in our Church, may we all say a more generous "yes" to God's dream and work in our world.  

Blessings on the Feast of the Annunciation! 

Deborah Rose-Milavec

Executive Director 



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