Joseph’s side of the story
‘Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.’ vs 19.
It was the right thing to do, to dismiss her quietly instead of exposing her to public disgrace.
To dismiss her quietly rather than loudly was the gracious thing to do.
To dismiss her quietly to a life of shame and poverty as a single mother was the righteous thing to do.
To dismiss her quietly to a life of being excluded and rejected was the right thing to do?
Understanding a little of the cultural context suggests that he was about to do, very relatively speaking, the more kind and considerate thing. Reading from our culture and time his thought process seems cold and callous.
But God knows that it is far from kind and considerate and choses to break through the cultural expectations with a divine dream and persuades him not to abandon this young woman in her time of greatest need.
The power of cultural expectations required angelic intervention to persuade Joseph to do the truly righteous thing and not reject and abandon Mary.
The rejection and abandonment of women is still an all too common experience today as detailed in our Christmas Appeal. But like the resilience of Mary that we reflected on last week, the resourcefulness and resistance of these women makes them far from pitiful damsels in distress.
These women are strong, determined and resourceful. Given a chance, they could use their God-given gifts to build new lives for themselves and their families. Women like Ranjita who was forced into manual scavenging work at just nine years old.
She earned just a few rupees and a piece of stale bread for hours of degrading work cleaning human excrement by hand: ‘They treated us worse than animals’ she recalled.
Manual scavenging is reserved for the lowest caste in India who are known as Dalit. Despite being outlawed, there are still around 1.2 million manual scavengers, of which 95% are women.
Now a mother to her own children, Ranjita was determined to build a better life for them. Through a community self-help group run by our partner ARUN, she learnt about her rights and felt empowered to apply for a government compensation grant. This then helped her start a tailoring business.
Now Ranjita can provide for her family: ‘My children and I are happy now I am earning with dignity.’
Advent week 4 prayer
God, as we remember Mary,
the outspoken mother,
and her vulnerable holy child,
may we also remember the women
of India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Kenya,
who also long for freedom from poverty,
for the lowly to be raised up
for the hungry to be filled
for their children to flourish
and for all the causes of their oppression,
the injustice and misuse of power,
to be brought down,
scattered and made empty.
May we see in their eyes, as in Mary’s,
the spark of resilient hope
and the strength of resistance
and help us join our voice with theirs,
creating a chorus of courageous hope
that cannot be suppressed or ignored.
In your name we pray, Amen.
Things to pray for this week.
Give thanks that mothers like Ranjita will have had the opportunity to use their God-given gifts this Christmas thanks to generous people like you. But also pray for women like Geeta, who also lives in India and is a single mother. Like Ranjita, she was forced into the same dirty work of manual scavenging. Unlike Ranjita, she is still doing it.
Published on 28 November 2019