Thursday, September 15, 2016

"ACCOMPANYING HIM WERE SOME WOMEN."


Homily for Sept. 16th, 2016: Luke 8:1-3

          Who were Jesus’ disciples? The Twelve, first of all, chosen by Jesus to represent Jesus’ desire to reconstitute the twelve tribes of Israel. They were all men. Traveling along with them, Luke tells us in today’s gospel, were women as well. A modern Bible commentator writes: “It was not uncommon for women to support rabbis and their disciples out of their own money, property, or foodstuffs. But for [a woman] to leave home and travel with a rabbi was not only unheard of, it was scandalous. Even more scandalous was the fact that women, both respectable and not, were among Jesus’ travelling companions.” Today’s gospel is one of the many pieces of evidence we have that Jesus rejected the second-class status of women in his society.

          The first woman mentioned, Mary of Magdala, a small town in Galilee, is clearly not the woman “known in the town to be a sinner.” [Luke 7:37]. Luke is clearly telling us about a woman he has not previously mentioned. The information that “seven demons had gone out of her” refers to healing from sickness. The number seven in biblical thought represents fullness. Her healing is now complete.

            The next woman mentioned, Joanna, is married to a high government official: Chuza, the manager of the estates of Palestine’s ruler, Herod Antipas. This Herod was hostile to Jesus. If his steward Chuza was the royal official mentioned in the 4th chapter of John’s gospel who asked Jesus to heal his son, as some commentators believe, and who “became a believer” when the boy was cured, this would explain why he allowed his wife to minister to Jesus.

          Later it would be women, not men, who were the first witnesses and messengers of the resurrection. Despite all this evidence of the importance of women for Jesus, it was to men alone that he gave the command at the Last Supper, to “do this in my memory.” This helps explain why still today only men are ordained to the priesthood. St. John Paul II told us that the Church has no power to alter Jesus’ clear intention and command.