In the light of International Women’s Day, the Gospel reading at Christian Churches this weekend tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman.
In approaching this woman, talking to her and instructing her, Jesus broke multiple social conventions. Racially and culturally, he was not meant to have dealing with any other than his own race and religion.
But more scandalous was the fact that a man and a respected and acknowledged teacher would dare talk to a woman, let alone instruct her. And yet Jesus had the courage and strength of character to stand up to these unjust and irrational conventions and model a way of life that gives life, dignity, respect and justice to all, no matter who they are or what their ethnic, religious, political or sexual background.
The reading is a timely reminder to us that our society still needs to be challenged in the way Jesus challenged his world.
All too frequently and recently, we hear the horrific stories of the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of women. We don’t have to look beyond our own back yard to see racism and the institutional mistreatment of people from cultures and religious backgrounds different to the traditions of white Australia.
These need to be named and challenged whenever and wherever they appear. At the heart of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus is a vision of a world of equality and inclusion. It is best summed up in the prayer of St Paul, when he wrote: