Gutsy women of the Gospel

Sr. Mary Ann Figlino gave a talk to the Women’s group at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Denver about the gutsy, courageous, outspoken women of the scriptures, especially considering their times.  The news was too good not to share!  Sr. Mary Ann herself, along with other vibrant Sisters of St. Joseph, provided elementary education to a good number of us still in the church today.  What she teaches makes sense, deepens insight into the wisdom of our tradition, and speaks to the signs of the times.

Sr. Mary Ann started with Mary, unwed, pregnant with a child, not Joseph’s, a situation to which she said “yes”. Joseph had every legal right to have Mary stoned to death or burned.  As we all know she was betrothed to Joseph, “a righteous man.”  Was Joseph already a righteous man, a good man, before he had the dream?  Mary was going to spend her life with him, so that speaks for him.  

We read in the next part that Joseph took his wife into his home.  The groom’s job was to prepare a home.  The culture was to provide a home attached or next to his family’s home, in what became like a family compound.  The groom’s father was the one who gave the final approval on when this home is/was ready.

The bridesmaids’ job was to bring the hope chest in procession to the new home.  The groom’s father would give the okay.  It might be at night.  Then the bridesmaids’ procession would be at night, as we hear in the parable of the 10 virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom.

Then Sr. Mary Ann painted a picture of the wedding feast at Cana.  Women celebrated with the bride.  Men celebrated with the groom.  Mary had to cross the line, socially, culturally to be where she had no right to be.  The need was way greater than staying socially acceptable.

In Jesus’ day, saying “woman” was to give someone the highest tribute and respect.  He addressed the woman caught in adultery the same way.

Mary held nothing back or behind.  Are we willing to give up our social comfort to address a need that is out there that is more important?


There stood six stone water jars, there for purification and keeping the rules.  This miracle was first witnessed by the servers, the marginalized and unseen, like the shepherds as the first witnesses at his birth.  In the miracle at Cana, there was no longer water to keep the rules – but wine to celebrate.  

Jesus got rid of the laws and rules that kept them captive.

Mary not only saw a need but followed through, took the initiative, had the courage to break all the laws.

The third gospel story Sr. Mary Ann shared was the Syro-Phoenician woman, Mark 7: 24-30.

Jesus left that place where the Jews were… Jesus is teaching in Tyre in the northern part of the country, Gentiles.  A Jew that wanted to be pure and clean would not go there. 

He’s in a place where he socially or culturally shouldn’t be.

Yet he wasn’t able to keep his presence secret.  He must have somehow caused a stir.

The woman was a Greek/foreigner/enemy, a great and courageous woman.

She comes with an entirely different society and culture than Jesus.

Jesus – let the children eat all they want.

Dogs were scavengers, against the purity laws.  It’s also a racial slur at the time, an enemy, or a foreigner.  At that state of his development…

She still addresses him as Lord, and responds very creatively.

This woman was his teacher.  Lord, you are here for everybody.  He listened to her, and she became his teacher.

Two demons were gone, the demon of prejudice and whatever illness that little girl had.

Jesus anointed by the sinful woman, Luke 7:36-50

Whoever has been forgiven little is loved little

Woman is not invited to the meal, culturally not supposed to be there.

She came in, with a bad reputation.

She came with an alabaster jar – perfumed oil, even more expensive

In this culture, oil was used for a person’s burial or when a king was anointed.

She was crying so hard she wet his feet.

Socially she was supposed to have her hair covered at all times in public.

This woman had already been forgiven and was thanking and praising Jesus for helping turn her life around.  No social boundaries are going to stop her.

Wiping his feet with her hair is a very intimate gesture, and a public display, with all the other men at the table.

Pharisees said,

Woman has already been judged, now Jesus is judged, he should know better than to associate with her or allow her to be here.

Correct definition of a prophet, a person who has insight into the present (not foretelling the future).

Jesus knew she was a holy woman, however disregarded or looked down upon she was by religious leaders, who saw her as a sinner.  Jesus saw her as a lover.

In her risky actions she represented all who are not welcome.

She had no boundaries, no comfort zone that would hold her back.

She was not an honored guest, but she rose above that.

These brave and risky women reach out…

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