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Father Vincent Hawkswell

Equality does not eliminate diversity

Voices Jan. 14, 2019

Jesus and Mary had very different, but both valuable, roles at the wedding at Cana. (Wikimedia Commons)

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
First Reading: Is 62:1-5
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:4-11
Gospel Reading: Jn 2:1-12

In a democracy, we make decisions by giving every person one vote and doing what the majority wants. We ignore all the differences in goodness, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, discernment, prophecy, insight, etc., that could make one person’s vote more valuable than another’s.

This process helps us banish prejudice, bias, and intolerance. Nevertheless, it favours an image of humans that is neither God’s nor the Church’s. In the Church, we freely acknowledge and celebrate the truth: that we each have different gifts “activated by one and the same Spirit” for “the common good.”

For example, in the Gospel Reading we see the difference between the roles of Jesus and Mary in Jesus’ first miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding at Cana. In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes, “there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”

In his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity of Woman”), Pope St. John Paul II said that “both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree; both are created in God’s image.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “God gave man and woman an equal personal dignity.” The Church even cautions the bridegroom during the marriage service: “Remember that she is your equal.”

Our society denies this equality by undervaluing the work that has traditionally been done by women. I found this out for myself once when I hosted a small dinner party at my rectory. My housekeeper had prepared the food in advance, but, like a good host, I kept asking my guests whether they would like more bread, whether the dishes were hot enough, etc. I became rather piqued when I realized that they did not consider the food nearly as important as what they were talking about!

At the beginning of the feminist revolution, men and women assumed, tacitly and without question, that work traditionally done by men was more important and valuable than work traditionally done by women. Women set out to prove they could do “men’s work” equally well.

Well, they have proved it! Now we need a new revolution to assert that work traditionally done by women is as valuable and important as work traditionally done by men.

“There is no doubt that the equal dignity and responsibility of men and women fully justify women’s access to public functions,” Pope St. John Paul II said in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (“On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”). “On the other hand, the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role in comparison with all other public roles and all other professions.”

“The Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value... While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family,” he said.

“Furthermore, the mentality which honours women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favouring work in the home.”

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of services, but the same Lord.