Christ Calls Women to Share His
John Paul II -
L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English
January 15, 1997
words and Anna's example at the presentation in the temple shed light on the
role women will have in Jesus' work of Redemption.
of many is a marvelous effect of the Redemption. This proclamation alone
kindles great hope in the hearts of those to whom the fruit of the sacrifice
already bears witness" the Holy Father said at the General Audience of
Wednesday, January 8, as he focused on the co-operation of women in the work
of Redemption. Here is a translation of the Pope's catechesis, which was the
forty-first in the series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. The words of the aged Simeon,
announcing to Mary her sharing in the Messiah's saving mission, shed light
on woman's role in the mystery of Redemption.
Indeed, Mary is not
only an individual person, but she is also the "daughter of Zion," the new
woman standing at the Redeemer's side in order to share his Passion and to
give birth in the Spirit to the children of God. This reality is expressed
by the popular depiction of the "seven swords" that pierce Mary's heart:
this image highlights the deep link between the mother, who is identified
with the daughter of Zion and with the Church, and the sorrowful destiny of
the Incarnate Word.
Giving back her Son,
whom she had just received from God, to consecrate him for his saving
mission, Mary also gives herself to this mission. It is an act of interior
sharing that is not only the fruit of natural maternal affection, but above
all expresses the consent of the new woman to Christ's redemptive work.
Mary will be involved in Jesus'
2. In his words Simeon indicates the
purpose of Jesus' sacrifice and Mary's suffering: these will come about so
"that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:35).
Jesus, "a sign that
will be opposed" (Lk 2:34), who involves his mother in his suffering, will
lead men and women to take a stand in his regard, inviting them to make a
fundamental decision. In fact, he "is set for the fall and rising of many in
Thus Mary is united
to her divine Son in this "contradiction," in view of the work of salvation.
Certainly there is a risk of ruin for those who reject Christ, but the
resurrection of many is a marvelous effect of the Redemption. This
proclamation alone kindles great hope in the hearts of those to whom the
fruit of the sacrifice already bears witness.
Blessed Virgin's attention to these prospects of salvation before the ritual
offering, Simeon seems to suggest to Mary that she perform this act as a
contribution to humanity's ransom. In fact, he does not speak to
Joseph or about Joseph: his words are addressed to Mary, whom he
associates with the destiny of her Son.
3. The chronological priority of Mary's
action does not obscure Jesus' primacy. In describing Mary's role in the
economy of salvation, the Second Vatican Council recalled that she "devoted
herself totally ... to the person and work of her Son, under and with him,
serving the mystery of Redemption."
At the presentation
of Jesus in the temple, Mary serves the mystery of Redemption under Christ
and with Christ: indeed he has the principal role in salvation and must be
ransomed by a ritual offering. Mary is joined to the sacrifice of her Son by
the sword that will pierce her soul.
4. The primacy of Christ does not rule
out but supports and demands the proper, irreplaceable role of woman. By
involving his mother in his own sacrifice, Christ wants to reveal its deep
human roots and to show us an anticipation of the priestly offering of the
The divine intention
to call for the specific involvement of woman in the work of Redemption can
be seen by the fact that Simeon's prophecy is addressed to Mary alone,
although Joseph also took part in the offering rite.
The conclusion of
the episode of Jesus' presentation in the temple seems to confirm the
meaning and value of the feminine presence in the economy of salvation. The
meeting with a woman, Anna, brings to a close these special moments when the
Old Testament as it were is handed over to the New.
Like Simeon, this
woman has no special status among the chosen people but her life seems to
have a lofty value in God's eyes. St Luke calls her a "prophetess," probably
because many consulted her for her gift of discernment and the holy life she
led under the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord.
Anna is advanced in
age, being eighty-four years old, and has long been a widow. Totally
consecrated to God, "she never left the temple, serving God day and night
with fasting and prayer." She represents those who, having intensely lived in
expectation of the Messiah, are able to accept the fulfillment of the
promise with joyous exultation. The Evangelist mentions that "coming up at
that very hour she gave thanks to God."
in the temple, she could, perhaps more easily than Simeon meet Jesus at the
end of a life dedicated to the Lord and enriched by listening to the Word
and by prayer.
At the dawn of
Redemption, we can glimpse in the prophetess Anna all women who, with
holiness of life and in prayerful expectation, are ready to accept Christ's
presence and to praise God every day for the marvels wrought by his
Anna is symbol of women who spread the
5. Chosen to meet the Child, Simeon and
Anna have a deep experience of sharing the joy of Jesus' presence with Mary
and Joseph and spreading it where they live. Anna in particular shows
wonderful zeal in speaking about Jesus, thus witnessing to her simple and
generous faith. This faith prepares others to accept the Messiah in their
"she ... spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of
Jerusalem," seems to credit her as a symbol of the women who,
dedicated to spreading the Gospel, will arouse and nourish the hope of
English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, the Holy Father said: I am pleased
to greet all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from
Korea and the United States. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God
in song. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of
Jesus Christ our Savior.
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