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Synopsis: The story of Jesus of Nazareth has been called "the greatest story ever told," but what role do women play in that story? In No Longer Silent, author Susan Dehn Matthews attempts to highlight the women in the Gospels and provide the background behind those important women.
Matthews starts by noting that women in the Gospels were deliberately dis-empowered in order to maintain their presumed dependence, both in Scripture and in society. She then gives a voice to the minds and hearts of the women of the gospels who have been marginalized or ignored altogether. As she writes, "Each women whose story is recounted here is remarkable precisely because, through the power of an encounter with Jesus, she discovered within herself the Divine energy that allowed her to offer her unique gift to the world." Some of the women Matthews writes about include:
Mary of Nazareth
Mary at the Wedding of Cana
The widowed mother of Nain
The woman accused
The mother of James and John
The sisters of Lazarus
The wife of Pilate
When I was asked to read Susan Dehn Matthews book, NO LONGER SILENT: The Empowerment of Women in the Gospels, I had no idea I would be embarking on a journey with a visionary and prophet. The trip is wild and wonderful, for those who wish to expand their comprehension of Scriptural vignettes beyond a literal translation and beyond a "reasonable" one.
It is equally exciting for anyone who desires to reach a new understanding of women in Scripture, one that is demanding of personal growth. In each of the 34 presentations, Matthews leads the reader into a new and different understanding of both the events she depicts and the participants whose lives are changed as a result of their responses to the divine call discovered in each unique situation.
Confining herself to selected women in the Gospels, Matthews has done a yeoman's work. She has achieved her goal as defined in the Afterword of the book. Through their encounters with Jesus in various roles, the women became more fully the persons God desired them to be. What is more important, "Each woman is an expression of some part of us as individuals." To paraphrase Matthews, the increase of our awareness of the Divine energy suffusing all creation will permit the stories in the book to become complete.
From conception to crucifixion, Jesus of Nazareth becomes real as prophet, storyteller, teacher, healer, and Messiah within the feminine experience of life. This book is a tale of spiritual midwifery that relates specifically to women, but can easily be broadened to include the masculine understanding as well. It is the saga of humanity seeking freedom and justice, finding pain and passion while increasing one's capacity to love. It speaks of rejection and resentment, acceptance and understanding all within the human experience. It is a tribute to the Hebrew cry: "L'Chaim, to life!"
Especially intriguing were the selections from Scripture that did not identify gender, as in the centurion's slave and the couple traveling on the road to Emmaus. Matthews chooses to see them as women, thus giving a fresh aspect to the stories. She views the Martha/Mary story from the perspective of one who has a difficult time understanding another's choice of lifestyle. In so doing, she comes to a nuanced conclusion regarding Jesus' apparent admonishment regarding Martha's angst over Mary's option for the better part of life. Matthews sees both women as blessed by Jesus' words.
Reading this text heightened my desire to seek a group that would explore the stories, respond to the excellent questions that follow each vignette, and thus deepen life in God. An experienced facilitator could easily incorporate men in the study without diminishing the feminine contribution and, I believe, enhancing it.
While appreciating the need to note the empowerment of women in the Gospels, and thus to be empowered as women of the Gospel, it is good to allow men to understand a viewpoint that might not be theirs at the outset. Similarly, it would be a fine opportunity for literalists to broaden, no pun intended, their viewpoint.
Matthews heeded the Lucan command and did it well. "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" --A Second Look, October 20, 2011
Title: No Longer Silent: The Empowerment of Women ...
Publisher: ACTA Publications
Publication Date: 2011
Book Condition: Used: Good
Book Description ACTA Publications. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Book has some visible wear on the binding, cover, pages. Bookseller Inventory # G0879464704I3N00
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