CSJ Advent Evening Prayer Reflection, December 4, 2016 by Suzanne Reedy
Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel
My name is Suzanne Reedy. I am a candidate to be a CSJ consociate and I attend Hedgerow classes. This fall, we have been studying a book edited by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, called: The Strength of Her Witness: Jesus Christ in the Global Voices of Women. This is a collection of 25 very rich and thought-provoking essays by feminist theologians from throughout the world, including Africa, India, Asia, Germany, Latin America, Australia, Canada, and various communities in the USA. Speaking out of her own specific context, each woman seeks to answer the question Jesus asked his disciples: Who do you say that I am? Over the centuries, there have been many answers, many images, many ideas, many Christologies about who this Jesus Christ is. For me, many of these images, titles, and metaphors are no longer meaningful in my context. For me, they are “dead metaphors” or “rigidified clichés”: as two writers describe them. Two of these images are Jesus as Lord (which is ubiquitous) and Jesus as Christ the King. For third world women whose countries were colonized, these even included images of Christ as the Warrior King and Christ the Conqueror. The idea of who Jesus Christ is was appropriated by the empire---whether this was the Roman empire of Jesus’ time or of Constantine’s time or perhaps the British empire of later centuries---or might I even speak of our American empire? Korean Chung Hyun Kyung states that “Western colonialism used Jesus’ image as Lord to justify political and economic domination over many Asian countries.”(p 106) Dorothee Soelle of Germany urges that we in the West develop a Christology from below that she believes can “emerge only in dialogue with Christians of other regions of the world, because (as she says) I believe I have learned something from these Christians of the poor world” (p.245). Elaine Wainwright of Australia cautions us about the limitations and blind spots of what she calls “any articulation of women’s experience that is simply white, middle class and particular to a limited and somewhat privileged group of women”.(p. 60)
That is certainly my context currently as a white, American, Catholic, well-educated, feminist, comfortably middle class woman. For me, the most moving ideas of who Jesus Christ is come from women who speak out of the places on the periphery of power in our world. One of these is Loida Martell-Otero who identifies herself as a Latina Protestant (evangelica) woman. This is how she describes Jesus:
“Jesus is a vehicle of God’s salvation because he lived and continues to live at the periphery, challenging those who wish to follow him to “go outside the gate”. …historically, he is a peripherally-placed person who faces the struggles of his very humanity in the midst of a colonized and peripherally placed people. This is no idealized or disembodied messiah. This person…weeps, gets angry, chastises, and tires…Jesus heard and knew the needs of those on the periphery of his time. His foundational good news was not that they would go to heaven, but rather that ‘the reign of God is in the midst of you’….She continues on to say “The resurrection is God’s ‘No’ to death-dealing institutional forces whether social, political, economic, religious, or familial that destroy bodies and communities”. She “paraphrases a famous dictum: without justice there can be no salvation.” (p.235-6).
She certainly describes a powerful, challenging image of Jesus as liberator.
I pray that we may liberate ourselves and our church and our world from patterns of domination and submission or passivity. May we wrap the bands of justice around our waists. I pray that we may go outside the gate of our comfort zones to hear the voices of those on the periphery of our world—whether the voices of Syrians trapped in Aleppo, or Standing Rock Sioux camping at Oceti Sakowin/ Sacred Stones camp in North Dakota, or Muslim Somali immigrants living in Minneapolis.
Martell-Otero goes on to bemoan how “salvation lost its communal implications” and became an “increasingly interiorized, individualistic, and privatized event,,,, wherein I say to myself: ‘Jesus died for me so that I could go to heaven’.”(p. 234) Jeannine Hill Fletcher of the USA in contrast proposes a Christology of relationality. She writes: “Jesus’ vision of a reign of God had in mind not the well-being of an individual before God, but a holistic well-being for all. And he called his disciples into a relationality that empowered them as well.” (p. 287). Brazilian Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer writes that “The reality of Jesus Christ was not completed or closed off in the earthly life of Jesus but continued being present in the body of the risen Lord, made up of all those men and women who gave their lives, in one way or another, for the coming of the Kingdom” (p. 182) Virginia Fabella of the Phillipines proclaims that “Jesus Christ is alive and we encounter him in our sisters and brothers. (p. 124).
In these writings, we find the powerful image of the Body of Christ and fresh, feminist ideas about interrelationship that undergirds our Christianity.
I pray that we Americans, steeped in an ethos of individualism, may deepen our communal values and strengthen the ties that bind us together. I pray that we may recognize and nourish the Body of Christ in our bodies and the bodies of our brothers and sisters.
Finally, Dorothee Soelle asks: “Do we really need a savior, a king, a conqueror, a redeemer? Someone who does everything that we cannot….Nor is a redeemer needed if the word means that some overpowering person transplants me out of the miserable position in which I find myself into a good, unscathed other world without my cooperation”. Soelle exclaims: “These caricatures of being saved through Christ surely cannot be what is intended!”(p.247)….She goes on to write that “To redeem means to set free the power of God, ‘``that of God in us’;…”if I try to follow him, he never calls to me saying ‘Leave well enough alone. You can’t do anything anyway. I have already settled everything for all time’. …He does not say ‘Close your eyes; I’ll do everything’.” (p.248)…She goes on to identify that “The goal of the Christian religion is…that we all ‘are in Christ’ as the mystical expression goes, that we have a part in the life of Christ”. (p.247)
I pray that we are set free and empowered by the gift of God- in-us. I pray that we may open our eyes and be transformed and energized to follow in Jesus’ way of compassion.