As more survivors of sexual assault are empowered to lift their voices and share their stories, we learn more of the depth, breadth, and gravity of violence that women experience in our world. In the home, patterns of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse mar the relationships meant to be most dear and sacred between two people. And in more subtle forms, women endure the emotional violence of harassment in the workplace, the classroom, and other spheres of public life.
Through the gospels, we know this not to be a novel problem, but one to which our faith can respond. Just as Christ intervenes to block the murder of a woman by stoning (John 8:3-11), we are also compelled to action, to the prevention of violence against women. It is not sufficient to drop the stones of judgement we may or may not possess. Rather, following the example of Christ entails stepping in ourselves and rejecting the complacency of remaining a bystander.
Even in the case of our Blessed Mother, we find evidence of the violence women experience. As Joseph weighs quietly divorcing Mary (Matthew 1:17-19), Matthew reveals to us briefly the precarity of Mary’s “Yes” at the Annunciation. Joseph’s anxiety over the “public disgrace” likely was only the tip of the iceberg for an alleged adultery. Mary may have already been the subject of vicious rumours, but could the Mother of God have also been the target of stones?
Let us pray for those women who experience violence, in its many forms; that they find support, peace, and healing. Let us also pray that we, the Church, will respond to such instances with both the conviction of Christ and the compassion of his Mother, Mary.
- Raymond Moylan
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (United States & Canada)