2015 Calendar Reflections, August 1-22. “Committed to women, men and relationships

AUGUST. Committed to Women, Men and Relationships. Good Relationships between male and female family members of all ages demands commitment from all. Parents should relate to and treat boys and girls equally, as future men and women in society, so that as adults they can relate to one another as equals too. Some women continue to be oppressed and exploited. Some men are abusive but men may also be alienated from their families. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (Week 21)
A MARRIAGE FOCUS from 23 August to 3 October will highlight the special relationships of men and women and the need to build and strengthen them. Sunday readings for weeks 21 – 27 are used for reflection for couples and about marriage for others.
With a growing number of women taking on senior positions in organisations there are also a growing number concerned about the effect on their own families. There are positive aspects but also some negatives as they, the men and the children have to adjust to the change. For this month’s reflections the scene is set for a social worker, Thandi, to facilitate discussions as part of an employee assistance programme with a mixed group. To start she explained that commitment had to take into account that societal changes required adjustments in families and also in the workplace. The scripture passages in these reflections are taken from the readings of the day. The Sunday reflections are presented in a homily context.

August 1st. Thandi, the social worker facilitating the group discussion worker kicked off with quite a challenging question. “How do you all here, men and women feel about women using their feminine wiles to manipulate men and get their own way, and even colluding and using other women for this? Talk to one another, as men and women about this for a moment.” When she asked for feedback it was almost unanimous from men and women that manipulation is not the way to achieve any kind of balance. It is not fair. “Thanks for that,” she concluded. When Herod’s birthday came the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother she said, “give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” Matthew 14: 6-8

August 2nd.18th Sunday Year B. Fr Joseph reminded the congregation that when scripture uses “man” it really means “person,”but one with male or female characteristics and habits. “We all realise that we’re not the same especially in the degree of power we have in our relationships. South Africa is still a patriarchal society but can we say that men are more corrupt or have stronger desires towards the other sex? Evidence would tend to show that but maybe it is not good to generalise. A committed relationship demands integrity from both partners. Working towards that is what God expects. Put off the old man that belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
August 3rd. Thandi, the social worker in her next session with the group asked who in their families were the main breadwinners. They were not surprised to find that almost all the men had that responsibility and many but not all the women. It was enlightening too to share on how heavy a burden they each felt this to be. “Do you ever pray in your families about this?” she asked. Moses said to the Lord, “I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me.” Read Numbers 11:4b-15.
August 4th. In a working setting there were obviously men and women from different backgrounds. A question that elicited quite some discussion concerned acceptance of their backgrounds within the family when they married. On the whole, they agreed that there is a quite some suspicion even within brothers and sisters. “It was my father-in-law who once came to my rescue,” Jane shared. “In those days Mirriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite women whom he had married and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” The anger of the Lord was kindled against them and behold Miriam was leprous.” From Numbers 12:1-13
August 5th. “We foreigners often have a hard time when it comes to practical matters like health or education,” Simone shared. “I was nearly frantic when my daughter was very ill and the medical authorities gave me such a hard time, questioning me about all sorts of things that didn’t even concern them.” The members of the group admitted that they had only recently come to understand such issues. A Canaanite woman came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” He answered, It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “O woman how great is your faith!”and her daughter was healed. From Matt 15:21-28
August 6th. Transfiguration. Thandi, the group facilitator suggested a special awareness towards the upcoming Women’s Day. “Some gender topics are challenging from a negative point of view; we are well aware of oppression, exploitation and abuse, but there is also a positive challenge, for commitment in gender relationships. This doesn’t happen naturally and needs a lot of hard work.“ Tracy, one of the group shared, “Today’s feastday, the Transfiguration, for us Catholics is one of my favourites. The three apostles chosen by Jesus to witness his transfigured self were overcome with wonder and exclaimed. ‘Lord it is good for us to be here.’ That is my hope and dream for all relationships.”
Jesus was transfigured before them and his face shone like the un and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is well that we are here.” Read Matt 17:1b-9.

August 7th. Work-family balance, workaholism and ambition to achieve were topics the group could discuss from a gender perspective. “Does a woman have to work harder to achieve the same success as a man, even though she often has extra commitments to worry about too?” “But are we all too focused on achievement rather than on doing what is best for our families, whether we are women or men? In the end will success be worthwhile if our marriage, or parent-child relationships suffer?” “Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
August 8th. Thandi asked the men and the women which of them reads to their children, or teaches them what is right and wrong. In the end they decided that everyone has different ways but within a family there needs to be unity about discipline. These words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way. From Deut 6:4-13l
August 9th. 19th Sunday Year B. Fr Joseph said he didn’t mind jumping the gun with Women’s Day coming up. He asked if it was going to be a day of marching, toi-toing, making demands or remembering past grievances as well as successes. “I wonder what Jesus would say, or Pope Francis. We know that Jesus did have women friends. Pope Francis speaking about women said, “The qualities of gentleness, of particular sensitivity and tenderness, which is abundant in the female soul, represent not only a genuine force for the life of families, for the irradiation of a climate of peace and harmony, but also a reality without which the human vocation would be unfeasible,” he said. He encouraged the participation of women in the working field as well as in positions where important decisions are made, saying these roles should serve to uphold women’s special presence and attention in and for their families. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you with all malice and be kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:31- 32.
August 10th. Women’s Day. “Does the Catholic Church have a problem with gender matters?” Mayson asked, “They come across very patriarchal. “Well here is what Pope Francis said recently,” Joyce replied. “We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men.” The Pope also touched upon questions of gender in modern society, saying that gender theory “aims to erase sexual difference” and that the removal of the difference is “the problem, not the solution.” Instead, he said men and women are meant to be complementary and he encouraged them to “treat each other with respect and cooperate with friendship.” Weekly audience April 15 2015. The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the terrible God who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow. sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Deut 10: Prayer.
Almighty God,
You are father and mother to us, your children.
We thank you for the particular and special gifts you have given to women, the gift of nurturing life, of sustaining and supporting life, the qualities of compassion, commitment, generosity and a willingness to share.
As they progress towards their rightful place in society we request your blessing on all women
that they may continue also to hold their rightful place in the family.
that women and men together may build a society
which will bring about the Kingdom You have promised us.
We call on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who nurtured and cared for her son and now reigns with Him in heaven
to inspire the women of South Africa,
to pray with them in their joys and in their struggles,
and to intercede for them with her Son.
Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, patroness of South Africa, pray for us.

August 11th. Thandi, the social worker for the group raised the issue of land as it was something that did bother her. “Should women have the right to own land in their own name or should men or should land be a family trust? Is that not how it used to be?” Different opinions emerged.“Women do farm quite successfully, so why not?” “We put our house in my wife’s name, isn’t that the same thing?” “Certainly something to be discussed as a family.” Moses said to Josua in the sight of all Israel, “be strong and of good courage for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their father to give them and you shall put them in possession of it.” From Deut 31:1-8
August 12th. Thandi found it helpful to focus on sibling relationships too. “Think of your own families for a moment and the relationships between you as brothers or as sisters and brothers. Is there rivalry between you or jealousy, or resentment or possibly serious conflict for one or other reason? The intimacy within family units is unique among all other human relationships and should be cherished rather than abused. Are there other sibling relationships that you know of that need some special care? I personally admire the young people who manage their own child-headed homes but I also know that they do need more help then they get. It is not fair on teenage boys and girls to be responsible for younger siblings when they themselves have hardly developed their own personal identity. Sometimes they are just left alone by a parent or two in different towns or maybe there are other relatives close by but these little units are very vulnerable on many fronts.” If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his faults between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen take one or two others along with you that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18: 15-16

August 13th. When Thandi, the social worker, asked the group what was the biggest cause of confict in their families, many admitted certainly one of the big issues was money. Who manages the money, is it shared, with some kept for personal use? A special session was arranged to consider money management and budgeting and all found that having agreement and a common approach was the best solution. The Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts. One was brought to him who could not pay. The servant fell on his knees imploring him, “Lord have patience with me.”
August 14th. “Isn’t the Catholic church busy debating the issue of homosexuality?” Neale asked. Thandi asked one of the Catholics to comment. “It is a question that is being considered seriously at the upcoming Synod on the Family in October. Certainly a homosexual orientation is recognised but one of the big questions is how does it affect our understanding about what marriage is or should be. In some places a same sex union is legal and there is growing support for this position but the last word has certainly not been said.” The Pharisees tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause”? Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them made and female and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one.”?
August 15th. (The Assumption is transferred to the Sunday.) A serious topic needing a response from the group was the question of rape of children. “Are our children precious to us, are they a fruit of our love to be guarded and protected?” “Should we not consider all other children in the same light?” “How?” “Child rape by anyone but also by clergy can never ever be justified but what could be going through a child rapist’s mind? Surely that is an unnatural act?” Thandi agreed that a professional input on this subject would be helpful and she agreed to organise someone to provide that information. “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matt 19:14-15

August 16th. Assumption. (20th Sunday) The Catholics in the group were given a chance to explain their devotion to Mary to the others, also because August is Women’s month after all. Different people shared how they saw her as a powerful queen, a mother, a sorrowing mother, at times possibly angry at events in her life and that of her son. She had experienced exile, and losing a child is very painful as some had also experienced. Some liked the “gentle woman” that we see on Christmas cards and other images too were shared. All agreed with the words she herself used, “The Lord has done great things for me.” The sharing was enlightening for all and they agreed a patroness can be all those things. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed: for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. Luke 1:46-49. “Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, patroness of South Africa, pray for us.”

August 17th. When the subject of sexual harassment came up Thandi, the social worker, allowed both the men and women to have their say. “You men…….” and “You women…….” went on for a bit. “It’s the way you dress.” “But why can’t we?” “You know what,” Joan said, “I wonder if we are conscious of our commitment to our husbands, partners, children etc. when we are at work. Do we separate our private and work lives?” “I have found it quite a challenge when the women at work look so sexy and my wife at home may not be looking her best,” Martin admitted. In those days the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and forsook the Lord. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel and he gave them over to plunderers. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them. And yet they did not listen to their judges for they played the harlot after other gods. From Judges 2:11-19
August 18th. The conversation in the group came back to possessions and money management again. This is a sore point in many places. Men complain that women are spenders, women complain that men are mean and irresponsible, drink or gamble. “My husband refuses to tell me what he earns.” “I need to ration the money I give to my wife because she just spends it all.” So comments came from around the group. Are there gender traits when it comes to managing finances or is it to do with one’s ideology, be it socialist or capitalist? But they also came to recognise that not everyone is called to give up all worldly possessions. That is a special calling. Everyone is called however to have a proper balance even recognising that wealth and greed and corruption are problems at any level.
Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” From Matt 19:23-30

August 19th. The speaker kicked off with, ‘Equal work for equal pay,’ is a popular slogan and goes to the heart of much of the gender question today in almost every country. “But then should there be discrimination about the type of work men and women can do? Women cannot or would not necessarily want to do hard physical labour. Are they built differently physically and mentally to work differently too?” Then there is also the question whether wages should be determined or negotiated individually or even be a decision by the employer. “The whole money issue begins at home with the way we teach our kids about money and give them pocket money or expect them to contribute their time to making things work in the family.” Everyone was encouraged to go and discuss the issue further with their children at home. The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He went out again later. Each received a denarius. The first grumbled but the householder said, “ Did you not agree with me for a denarius? I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Read Matt 20:1-16.

August 20th. “Why would someone not want to go to a wedding especially a traditional one that goes on for a day or two with lots of food and drink, I wonder.” “Maybe too busy.” “Can’t afford to dress up.” “Not really interested, or in the people involved.” Reasons came from men and women in the group. “I think it’s mostly men, like why are there so few men in church these days?” The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son and sent his servants to call those invited but they would not come. From Matt 22:1-14
August 21st. Thandi, the social worker, raised the issue of extended families. One married woman shared her frustration that she found her husband more concerned about his parents and siblings than about her. “Maybe that is why I don’t get on well with my mother-in-law,” she said. “My mom-in-law is a treasure, I love her to bits,” was another view. The men listened with interest. Ruth said to her mother-in-law, “Wherever you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
August 22nd. At the end of their sessions together Thandi asked the group how much they had learned from sharing and listening to each other. “With women’s lib and the striving for gender equality clearly there needs to be discussion but is sexual harassment still as serious in the workplace? And what about in families and homes? Do we need further sessions on Managing your Marriage? Boaz said to Ruth,” Have I not charged the young men not to molest you? All that you have done for your mother-in0law since the death of your husband has been fully told me. So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. ”

FROM 23 AUGUST reflections will be published as part of the SACBC MARRIAGE AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.

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