“Blessed are those who fear the Lord,” the Psalmist tells us today. And today as our example of those who fear the Lord, we have two women. This is significant because the Scriptures, as you probably know, don’t make nearly enough mention of women; this is a side-effect of the times during which the Scriptures were written. But I think the point of view that the Scriptures present overall is that men and women are integral partners in the work of creation and redemption, and today’s Liturgy of the Word is a shining example of that.
We begin with the creation of the first woman. God has created all the creatures of the earth: land, water and air, yet none of these are found to be a suitable partner for him. And so it takes a new creative act of God, putting the man to sleep – putting things on pause for a moment, as if to make things right. The only suitable partner for the man had to be someone who was made of his same flesh, and so one of his ribs is taken to form the basis of the woman. How significant it is that his partner is made from a bone right next to his heart! And only with the astounding new creation is all of creation complete. Now the work of creation goes on all the time, of course, but only because man and woman were created to participate in that creation together with their Creator.
The second woman we meet today is the Syrophoenician woman. She is a woman of great faith – persistent faith even! Not only does she want Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter, but she is convinced that he is the only one that can make it happen. Her faith and her persistence give us a model for our spiritual lives. For us disciples, a strong faith in Christ means never questioning his ability to act for our good, and never letting anything – not even the technicalities of a perceived mission – get in the way of acting on that faith. We too are called to steadfast faith, and persistent prayer.
The Nuptial Blessing from the Rite of Marriage prays for the bride: “May she always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures.” There are many such wonderful examples, of course, and today’s are just two of them. They give all of us a shining example of what our faith should be like. May all of us – women and men! – follow their example.