Word for Word

by Father Jim Dubert
St. Patrick Catholic Church, Waukon

Next week, Churches enter into Holy Week focusing upon the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. His victory over sin, death, and the devil make this week the high point of the Christian year. God proclaimed this victory in Genesis 3:15 when he told the devil that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” This verse is called “the first proclamation of the Gospel.” In this verse, we all recognize the seed as being Jesus and his victory over the devil.  But who is the woman?
The early Church fathers saw in this Genesis passage and in several passages from the writings of the Apostle John in his Gospel and in Revelation 12, which also mention “the woman,” a reference to three different “spiritual senses” of the woman: (1) Israel; (2) Mary; and (3) The Church.
We could look at all three, but for this article I want to focus on the third one, the Church and the enmity between the devil and the Church and her seed. Thus, the woman represents the “spiritual battle” the Church and its seeds are undertaking and continue to undertake in its battle with the devil.
First, let’s look at the text in Revelation 12:6 where “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God in which to be nourished.” The Church is being protected during the spiritual battle by God himself while it is in the wilderness, “with the wild beasts,” (Mark 1:13) symbolic of demons and evil. Jesus said this protection of the Church extends to the point where “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) This is “good news” for anyone in a battle.  You know you are protected and will win! But later Revelation 12:17 says “Then the dragon (the devil) was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” Thus, the devil knows he will lose against the whole Church, but wants victory over as many individual believers as possible.
John’s Gospel mentions the woman throughout the twenty-one chapters. Let’s just look at some of the references. First, in John 4:21-24, “the woman” at the well is told by Jesus to “believe me… worship in spirit and truth.”  This is the battle plan for the Church’s victory over evil, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth proclaimed by Jesus.  
Second, in John 8:10-11, Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery (symbolic of past heresies and sins) that he does not condemn her but calls her to “do not sin again.” So in the Church’s battles, failures will happen, but Jesus does not condemn the Church, but calls the Church to greater holiness in the battle.
Thirdly, Jesus, at the tomb, (John 20:15) calls Mary Magdalene the woman and asks her “why are you weeping?” Jesus doesn’t want the Church to be discouraged in the battle, even at the lowest points (i.e., the tomb), but recognize that he is “always with” (Matthew 28:20) the Church at its side as its bridegroom. (John 3:28-29)
There are many other references we could examine, but these help us to see that the Easter Victory of Jesus over the devil continues with the Church and every believer. Let’s all of us recommit ourselves to doing our part of the battle this Easter!