Theologian Elizabeth Johnson points out that when we examine the entirety of Jesus’ life, language, and mission, we get a picture of Wisdom at work in partnership and mutuality:
In his brief ministry Jesus appears as the prophet and child of Sophia sent to announce that God is the God of all-inclusive love who wills the wholeness and humanity of everyone, especially the poor and heavy-burdened. He is sent to gather all the outcast under the wings of their gracious Sophia-God and bring them to shalom. This envoy of Sophia walks her paths of justice and peace and invites others to do likewise. Like her he delights in being with people; joy, insight, and a sure way to God are found in his company. Again and again in imaginative parables, compassionate healings, startling exorcisms, and festive meals he spells out the reality of the gracious goodness and renewing power of Sophia-God drawing near. . . . Scandalous though it may appear, his inclusive table community widens the circle of the friends of God to include the most disvalued people, even tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes. In all, his compassionate, liberating words and deeds are the works of Sophia reestablishing the right order of creation: “Wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19). . . .
Johnson makes a connection between Jesus’ Sophia-inspired teaching and the many women who were empowered by his ministry:
Women interact with Jesus in mutual respect, support, comfort, and challenge, themselves being empowered to acts of compassion, thanksgiving, and boldness by Spirit-Sophia who draws near in him. . . . [These women] befriend, economically support, advise, and challenge Jesus, break bread with him and evangelize in his name. Others receive the gift of his healing, being empowered to stand up straight beyond physical or mental suffering, spiritual alienation, or social ostracism. . . . New possibilities of relationships patterned according to the mutual services of friendship rather than domination-subordination flower among the women and men who respond and join his circle. They form a community of the discipleship of equals.
All of this is too much for those heavily invested in the political and religious status quo. [Father Richard: The giveaway of the dominance of the masculine is the assumption that all problems can be solved by top-down power, a mistake both men and women make.] Mortally threatened, they conspire to be rid of him. In the end Jesus’ death is a consequence of the hostile response of religious and civil rulers to the style and content of his ministry, to which he was radically faithful with a freedom that would not quit. The friendship and inclusive care of Sophia are rejected as Jesus is violently executed, preeminent in the long line of Sophia’s murdered prophets. . . .
For the Christian community, the story does not end there. Faith in the resurrection witnesses that Sophia’s characteristic gift of life is given in a new, unimaginable way.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1992, 2002), 157–158.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard’s poem “It Can’t Be Carried Alone,” written in response to the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
- Read biblical scholar Marcus Borg on female images in the Bible.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Toni Frisell, Nuns Clamming on Long Island (detail), 1957, photograph, New York, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Rose, (detail), 2020, photograph, used with permission. Annie Spratt, Women farming cassava in Sierra Leone (detail), 2017, photograph, Sierra Leone, Unsplash, free use. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Divine expression comes in many forms. The Divine Feminine meets, nurtures, and is in us all, regardless of gender. Like a rose in a forgotten window, She Is and continues to be, despite attempts to neutralize her fragrance.
Story from Our Community:
I believe that the Holy Spirit is the Mother within the Trinity, brooding over Creation to bring forth life. Having been raised in the Catholic Church and then spending decades in a fundamentalist church, this belief felt like heresy, but I couldn’t shake the knowledge that God is simply too big for any gender-specific label.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.