Commentary on the Gospel of

Chas Kestermeier, S.J.-Creighton University's English Department

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

This is a very curious gospel passage since Luke turns the spotlight, as it were, away from Christ for a moment and it is the women who accompanied Him who take center stage. 

They were not simply groupies; they were relatively well off and formed a "support group" which followed Jesus, but what was their life like?  They must have practiced a careful separation from the male disciples and showed a careful regard for the proprieties, but how seriously would they accept the hardships of following His itinerant life?  Would they would be willing to sleep in the fields? 

And what was their role?  Did they primarily help with the women who approached Jesus, the women in the crowds and their children?  As silly as it sounds to ask, would they do things as simple as any needed laundry?  They did assist Christ and the disciples out of their resources, but clearly they were more present, more practical, than that. 

I find it hard to get my head around what kind of life that would be for a woman. 

Mary Magdalene here sounds more like she was relieved of a mental illness than anything else, but she also sounds like a woman “of independent means.”  “Joanna” is a Jewish name, but she was married to a relatively powerful pagan (“Chuza” is not a Jewish name, nor is it likely that a Jew would work for Herod...); what was she doing following Jesus around?  There is an untold story here....  Susanna?  Another story there.  But there were also “many others who were assisting them out of their means,” and each had her own story.

Are we seeing in these women the beginning of the new People of God's “diakonia”?  Such service was not formally mentioned in Jewish Law or found in widespread Jewish practice, so there is something revolutionary happening here.  When the diaconate is formalized in the newborn Church (Acts 6:1-6) it is the men who are in question, but I think we can see it already alive and well in the lives of these women.

Unfortunately, Matthew (27:55-56) and Mark (15:40-41) barely touch this topic and John is chasing a very different rabbit here (19:25), but what do we see when we look at this group?  Do they and their lives call us, both men and women, individually and as full communities, to a new role of service in the Church, the People of God?

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