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Women of Struggle, Courage and Hope

A Bible Study by Ms. Norma P. Dollaga
from the KASIMBAYAN for Women Doing Theology 2003

Introduction

Feminist theology gives us an opportunity to explore a form of re-reading the Bile from a particular point-of-view: from the eyes of a woman, of a struggling and hopeful woman! Let us promote feminist theology not just another threatening method and highly academic affair. Let us learn it by doing it.

I prepared two (2) particular women in the Bible for our Bible Study today. All of must take part and must actively participate in our learning, re-learning and unlearning together.

Part I. Let us name names!

Talk to yourself (individual reflection). Kindly fill-up the table below

Name one woman in the Bible whose life is a representation of Struggle, courage and hope

What are her traits? What are her struggles? what are images of hope you see in her?

What could
be her Message
to us today?

Draw a Symbol of her of LIFE

Next, talk to your neighbour! Group Sharing Exercise.

Share what you have written.

Part II. Two women of struggle, courage and hope

The Syrophoenician Woman’s forceful demand led us to be intrigued by Jesus’ attitude towards her. Definitely she was an “outsider”. Matthew calls her “Canaanite” while Mark calls her “Syrophoenecian.” Being a Canaanite, reminds us of the ancient struggle between Canaanites who lived in Palestine and the early Israelites who were ancestors of the Jews. “Syrophoenecian” means a Phoenecian from Syria which is a gentile region of Galilee. We are very certain that this woman is not a Jew, therefore considered as an “outsider”.

But a strong and impressive characteristic of this woman had marked the Gospel: she is loud, assertive and dynamic. I have never read a text in the Bible that ever challenged Jesus in such a manner. (Although I was surprised that Jesus was also capable of being snobbish). This “outsider” has called the attention of Jesus’ unlikely attitude. Alas, here comes a woman who bravely addressed the exclusive tendency of a person.

However, her assertiveness was created by a material condition. She was in need. Her daughter had to survive. This situation is not like an intellectual debate of a particular issue of a privileged woman with Jesus. The Syrophoenician woman had a basic issue: life and death of her daughter. Her sharpness comes from the very urgent call of the time: survival. It is interesting to note that while patriarchy dichotomise human beings into thinking and feeling, mind and body, wonderfully, the woman has both. She has the brain to engage into a life-and-death issue. And her thinking/intellectual capacity was moulded by a material condition of trying to bring her child into a normal and healthy life.

All that mattered to her was the life of her child who happened to be a girl. At that time boys were preferred than girls. Yet to the eyes of a mother, a son or a daughter who comes from her womb is precious.

When Jesus said in a very offending manner: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel….It isn’t right to take food away from children and feed it to dogs,” the woman never run out of logic, heartful, and soulful response: “but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the owner’s table.” (Mt.15:24,26,27).

It was an act of risking that Jesus shifted his course of dialogue with this woman. It was her act of risking that her child was healed.

The widow’s persistence, vigilance and courage are characteristics that challenged even the most heartless, unfeeling, and callous judge. She had banged the walls of the court dominated by men of power and influence. She had raised her voice that no one could tone her down and to make her quiet.

Who would not be afraid of her? At first impression one would say that she is a woman full of rage and anger. This is a negative emotion and should be meted with suppression and antagonism. But looking deeply at the story, her life is filled with love and hope. What she is fighting for is right and just. Her life is filled with anger and rage but also filled with love and life. One cannot fight for life and justice without hope and love.

Patriarchy has taught women to be meek and patient, to be virtuous and plain. And when confronted with crisis and contradiction, the best way to do is to wait and be passive.

The widow in our story subverted the tradition and the roles assigned to women. She became a dangerous and a subversive woman. And JUSTICE was served.

Like the widow who have known her state of periphery and marginalisation, but find herself seeking and pursuing what is justly hers, the women need to organise themselves to participate for the cause that truly counts. The widow had been persistent. Perhaps she had been afraid for the actions she decided to take. But she had to overcome this fear because there was a struggle that had to be won.

Their story is a story of many women today

As the women workers have been agonising because they are denied of their right to a living wage, equal pay for equal work; as the urban poor women are suffering from violence of demolition and denial of social services; as peasant women along with their husbands and children lamenting because of militarisation amidst their struggle for land and life; as women are experiencing horrible stories of as they are forced work in a strange land only to find themselves victims of sex trafficking; as women are experiencing painful and deliberate economic marginalisation even among professionals, employees, self-employed, businesswomen as the political and economic situation worsens.

Let us know what we want to establish, and break down all the barriers to our dreams. Let us dare, let us risk, let us subvert the rules of oppression and exploitation. Justice will be served, we will be whole again. What the Syrophoenician woman had done in the story of Jesus, should continuously inspire us to carry on with our agenda of justice, peace and liberation. We must uphold the tradition of women’s struggle if we want to be counted as shapers and creators of history. In the name of women who lived a life of resistance against tyrants and oppressors, in memory of Deborah, Judith Mary, the Syrophoeninician woman, the nameless women and all women who fought for life,

Let us continue to weave our history….

Until we give birth to a society of shalom.