Jesus cares for women and children

by Peter Knox SJ


The African proverb says, “women hold up half the sky.” Mark 5 shows us how Jesus relates to the 50% of humanity who keep the sky in place. Like the ends of a sandwich is the story of Jesus raising a young girl from the dead, while the filling of the sandwich is Jesus’ care for the woman with a haemorrhage. Is it a coincidence that the woman became ill the year the child was born? A lot can happen in 12 years – things that the woman was excluded from because of her haemorrhage.


Various ‘women’s issues’ are not talked about in polite company. It’s fine to talk about our gym sessions, our broken limbs, or failing hearing and eyesight. But gynaecological concerns are discussed in the privacy of the doctor’s rooms – if you are in the minority who can afford a gynaecologist. Whether it’s endocrinal or medical or related to menstrual anxiety or pain, women are expected to grin and bear it and suffer in silence. This is a grave injustice to them. Some societies inflict even worse injustices on their women and adolescent girls by conducting genital mutilation so that sex and childbirth are accompanied by indescribable pain. By law, no culture or religion may inflict this on girls and women. Although it is forbidden in South Africa, it does occur. Already in the 1980s, the Jesuit Refugee Services had a project against FGM.


As a man of his times, Jesus would have been shocked that the haemorrhaging woman broke the taboo – of which she was well aware – by touching his cloak. But Jesus did not just ignore her or pretend that this breach of etiquette has not happened. He made it clear that God is not indifferent to the suffering of this daughter. “Your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint.” Jesus showed us the way. How wonderful it would be if the people of our times took such care of our mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins who might be suffering from “women’s issues.”


At least now, the issue of ‘period poverty’ is in the national consciousness. Girls should not miss a full week of schooling at a particular time of the month. As a society, are we becoming more sensitive to the 50% of our society who “hold up half of the sky?” Do we make an occasional donation of sanitary products at the supermarket check-out?


Also, with regard to child mortality, Jesus has shown us the way. Apart from his friend Lazarus, he raised two children from the dead: the girl in the Mark 5 sandwich and the son of the widow of Nain in Luke 7. It is not right that parents should be mourning over their deceased children. The Gospels don’t tell us whether these children are Jewish or not. However, we can generalise to say that Jesus cares about all children and has compassion for all families who have lost a child. His care and compassion should be an example for us all.


The 2022 United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child made it clear what children need for their flourishing. Whether they are Palestinian, Israeli, Sudanese, Mozambican, Congolese, Burmese, South African or Ukranian, no child should die in their parents’ wars or because of failing health systems, incompetence and corruption.


In the Israeli decimation of Gaza, the conflicts over minerals in Africa, the persecution of religious minorities in Burma and China, conflicts that have remained unresolved for decades, when the elephants battle, the grass gets crushed. Children’s rights are ignored and trampled. Ignoring the plight of children is an indictment against us. What does this say about us as a human family? What is it saying about followers of Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me?”

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