24th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)
1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 8:1-3
Jesus 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.
Luke’s Gospel is widely acclaimed for its unconventional respect and prominence accorded to women in the first century. In this brief pericope, we are informed that a train of women followed Jesus and his disciples on their apostolic mission as benefactors and spiritual mothers. As recipients of his healing and mercy, love for the person of Christ united this motley crew of men and women from very different walks of life.
Jesus did not have “charisma” or a “magnetic personality” to attract all these followers (Isaiah 53). What radiated from his person was the pure and primal energy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit uniting all persons and creatures. Distinctions of male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, did not faze him. Jesus’ immaculate soul also had no capacity for unloving emotions. He experienced no feelings of “contamination” by setting foot on Gentile territory, breathing Gentile air, or dining with tax collectors.
Pure mercy and compassion moved the Son of God and the Son of Man to remove suffering from the afflicted like a doctor fixing the broken wing of a bird or pulling a thorn out of the paw of a lion. The gentle and kind Jesus tamed the wildest of beasts and humans. Demon possession, harlotry, thievery, leprosy, lunacy, blindness, deafness, muteness and other ailments of spirit, soul, and body arose from the primordial wound of universal Adam, which he, the new Adam came to heal and restore.
The eyes of Christ penetrated far beyond the exterior to the very person in the Womb of the Father: a unique “someone” created for eternal love and glory.
As a divine person transcending all divisions, Jesus was unconditioned by earthly categories, biases, and divisions. The man Jesus was conditioned by historical circumstances and thus acted in accordance with culture and customs, but his uncreated identity as the beloved Son of God permeated his entire sojourn on earth.
Tradition extols St. Mary Magdalene, St. Joanna the Myrhhbearer, St. Susanna, and the anonymous women who played a vital role in Jesus’ life and ministry. The impartiality of Jesus toward women and men moved the Church to declare St. Mary Magdalene an “apostle of the apostles” after two millennia, a title that would have startled Peter and his colleagues. She stood fast at the foot of the Cross, was the first to witness the empty tomb, and the first to confirm the truth of the resurrection. Jesus entrusted this beloved apostle with the task of bringing the good news to his brothers (John 20:17).
St. Joanna accompanied St. Mary Magdalene and other women to the empty tomb on the third day as soon as the Sabbath was over (Luke 24:10). The women intended to anoint the body of Christ, and hence received the title of Myrrhbearers in the Eastern Church. St. Joanna is also known in the East for burying the head of St. John the Baptist with honor on the Mount of Olives.
Nothing is known about St. Susanna (which means “Lily”), but the Church honors her as a fragrant lily in the garden of Paradise.
The witness of the apostle of the apostles and her sisters are the backbone of the Church’s message of hope: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God…” (I Corinthians 15:13-15).
Jesus’ entourage in the Gospel of Luke is an early snapshot of the heterogeneous and multi-personal communion of saints the Father desires to gather back into his Womb in the Spirit of truth.