June 26, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 8:1-3.
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.
As the New American Bible notes point out, it was extraordinarily unusual for women to accompany an unrelated man especially an itinerant preacher. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states that it would have been considered scandalous for a woman to leave her home and travel with a man like Jesus. John’s gospel gives an indication of how unusual when even Jesus’ disciples questioned why he was talking to the woman at the well. They were following rabbinic teaching of the time cautioning against speaking to women in public. Even more stunning to people of the time was that these women, at least Joanna, were respectable women of means and position. This just wasn’t done.
The other gospels don’t specifically report that women were supporting Jesus during his ministry. To Luke this must have been important to report to Theophilus as part of the story of Jesus’ mission. So, what is the importance? The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states, “This evangelical traveling band images God’s kingdom, in which there is reconciliation between men and women, married and single, healthy and ailing, those with much and those with little.” And isn’t it interesting that it is these women by name who are with Jesus until he drew his last breath on the cross while the men had fled in fear? Too, they were there for his burial and were the first to be told of his resurrection.
Over and over and over we are told how Jesus turned everything upside down. For Jesus there was no conventional wisdom or status quo or taboos or traditions that went unchallenged or disregarded. His mission was to tell people about the good news of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom was not what they thought and that was indeed good news for women and the poor and the disenfranchised. The world in which they lived used them and used them up. Here was Jesus inviting them all to the banquet — saints and sinners alike, rich and poor, the able-bodied and the lame, men and women. They were all children of God, all brothers and sisters. The only distinction among them was whether they were open to receiving his teachings and committed to following his commands.
That’s one of the characteristics I love about our parish community. We are all the same in the only way that matters — openness to God and dedication to doing our best to obey Him. Nothing else is important — not transgressions in the past, wealth, occupations, education, parentage, length of time in the community, political persuasion. Jesus welcomes us all as we are and asks us to use the gifts our Father has given us to help Jesus establish the kingdom. That’s the model of community that Luke wanted us to know about.