Scripture for the week: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 5:1-9 (alternate gospel)
In 1631, a 32 year old French woman, Marie Guyard, found herself as a widow with a 13 year old son. She decided to take the veil and entrusted her son to the care of her sister. She took the name of Marie de l’Incarnation.
For eight years, she had dreams in which God presented to her visions of what she called “afflicted places,” which she came to understand to be New France, which is now the province of Quebec in Canada. Eventually, she submitted to the call, and after a miserable three-month crossing, arrived in Quebec in August 1639. She and her companions were the first female missionaries in North America.
Harsh does not begin to describe the conditions in which they lived. Yet she lived to the age of 72, never returning to France of seeing her son again.
God calls us to journeys that may be difficult, or different from our intentions. The Apostle Paul learned this, being directed away from what is now Turkey to Macedonia. There he met Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman who traded in valuable purple cloth. She listened to his message, and was baptised, with her household.
This is one of several incidents that demonstrates the radical, inclusive attitude towards female leadership of both Jesus and Paul. The church has not always respected its heritage in this regard. Even now, there is still healing to take place.
We do not always embrace the healing offered. Jesus asked, “Do you want to be whole (or healthy)?” Who would decline? Well, healing, being made whole, involves change, and we do not always want to change. This is caricatured in The Life Of Brian, when a lame man is healed and runs behind Brian asking, “What am I supposed to do now?!”
We might ponder the areas in which we, spiritually, might be made whole, or ways in which the church could be healed; how readily can we embrace the accompanying change? How might we react to the redirection of the Spirit when we have our (metaphorical) sails set, our journeys mapped, and our destinations clearly in mind?
It’s part of the human condition to have the gift of God’s Spirit advising us on the direction of our lives, to places we we can find, or be, agents of wholeness and healing. Sometimes those places are uncomfortable for us.
However we respond, we might recall the kind of testing journey and mission that Marie de l’Incarnation was given, following spiritually a path that the Apostle Paul mapped centuries before: being guided by the Spirit. In the end, despite the hardship, she participated in living the faith she professed, leaving a lengthy correspondence, a mixture of mystical writings and very enlightening accounts on life during the early days of the St. Lawrence colony in Quebec.