AGAINST MALE DOMINATION
The Pharisees raise a question with Jesus in order to test him. This time it isn’t an unimportant question, but something that causes many Galilean women to gravely suffer and causes lively discussions among the followers of the many rabbinical schools: «Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?».
This isn’t about modern divorce as we know it today, but the situation in which the Jewish woman lives within marriage, controlled absolutely by her husband. According to Mosaic Law, the husband could break the marriage contract and throw his wife out of the house. The woman, on the other hand, subjected to her husband in everything, wouldn’t be able to do the same.
Jesus’ answer is surprising to all. He doesn’t get into the rabbinical arguments. His invitation is to discover God’s original project, which is above laws and norms. Concretely this «chauvinist» law was laid on the Jewish people because of the hardness of heart of the husbands, who control their wives and subject them to their will.
Jesus goes deeper into the original mystery of the human being. God «made them male and female». Both have been made in equality. God hasn’t created the man with power over the woman. God hasn’t created the woman to be subject to the man. Between men and woman there’s not to be domination on anyone’s part.
From this original structure of being human, Jesus offers a vision of marriage that goes way beyond all that’s established by the Law. Women and men will be united in order to «be one flesh» and begin a shared life of mutual self-giving, without imposition or submission.
As far as Jesus is concerned, the matrimonial project is the highest expression of human love. The man has no right whatsoever to control the woman as if he were her master. The woman doesn’t have to accept living subject to the man. It’s God Self who attracts them to live as one by a free and gratuitous love. Jesus concludes emphatically: «What God has united, human beings must not divide».
From this stance, Jesus is rooting out the foundations of a patriarchy in all its forms of control, submission and imposition of man over woman. Not just in marriage, but in any civil or religious institution.
We need to listen to Jesus’ message. It’s not possible to open up pathways to God’s reign and God’s justice without actively fighting against patriarchy. When will we react in the Church with evangelical energy against so much abuse, violence and aggression of man against woman? When will we defend women from the «hardness of heart» of men?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf