It’s no accident that when Jesus rose from the dead he appeared first to women. Why? During his pre-resurrection ministry, at least so it seems, he called mainly men to be the principal actors. Why a certain reversal at the resurrection?
We can only speculate, but one reason might be that women are midwives. Something new is being born in the resurrection and women are the ones who attend to birth.
That’s a metaphor worth reflecting on, not just in terms of the importance of women in ministry, but especially in terms of how we are all, women and men alike, called to respond to the resurrection, namely, by becoming midwives of hope and trust.
And it’s a needed vocation because all of us, perpetually, are in the agony of struggling to give birth to trust. Why?
Because we’ve all been wounded by betrayal, abuse, broken promises, broken relationships, and empty words. By the time we reach adulthood there is enough disillusionment in us to make it natural to say: “Why should I trust you? Why should I believe this? Why is anything different this time? I know how empty words can be!” The older we get, the harder it is to trust and the easier it is to become sceptical and cynical.
Yet none of us wants to be this way. Something inside us wants to trust, to hope, to believe in the goodness of things, to again feel that trustful enthusiasm we once had as a child, when we were innocent (and “innocent” means “unwounded”), when we could still take another’s hand in trust. No one wants to be outside the circle of trust.
But it’s a struggle, an agony of sorts, as we know. We’d like to trust, but often we can’t give birth to it. That’s where a midwife can be helpful.
When a baby is born, normally the head pushes its way through the birth canal first, opening the way for the body to follow. A good midwife can be very helpful at this time, doing everything from giving support, through giving reassurance, through giving instruction, through teaching us how to breath, through actively helping to pull the new life through the birth canal. Her help can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, and it always makes the birth easier and healthier.
That’s true too for trust and hope. A good midwife can be helpful in bringing these to birth. What can she bring that’s helpful? Insight, support, reassurance, certain spiritual “breathing exercises”, and experienced hands that can, if necessary, help pull the new child through the birth canal.
And one of the things a midwife of hope needs to do is what Jesus did when he met people, women and men alike, after his resurrection. He sent them back to “Galilee” where he promised they would re-find their hope and trust. What is “Galilee”?
In the gospels, “Galilee” is more than a geographical place. It’s a place of the heart: the place of falling in love, of first fervour, of being inflamed with high ideals, of walking on water because one is naive and trustful enough to believe that this is possible. “Galilee” is the place we were before our hearts and ideals got crucified, the place inside us where trust and hope are gestated.
A good midwife of hope, like Jesus on the morning of the resurrection, invites people to “Galilee”. How? Here’s an example: The famed American educator, Allan Bloom, tells a story of how a particular distasteful incident in a classroom once helped change forever the way he teaches. Sitting in a lecture hall as an undergraduate, he felt assaulted by a professor who began his class with these words: “You come here with your small-town, parochial biases, your naivete; well, I’m going to bathe you in great truth and set you free!”
Bloom remarks how this reminded him of a boy who had very solemnly informed him when he was seven that there was no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. This was no great truth, just an invitation to cynicism, like the professor’s comment. Reflecting on this, Bloom resolved to forever teach in exactly the opposite way. He would begin his classes this way: “You come here with your many experiences and your sophistication; well, I respect that, but I’m going to try to teach you how to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny again – and then maybe you’ll have some chance to be happy!”
The resurrection of Jesus is about more than believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny, but, even so, Bloom’s pedagogy tells us something about what it means to go back to “Galilee” and give birth to trust in our lives.
Somewhere in life we lose the child in us and lose too the trust and hope that go with that. It’s a painful struggle to give birth to trust again and, in that struggle, a midwife of hope, someone who believes in the resurrection, can indeed be a wonderful friend.