Friends, our Gospel today celebrates the female disciples of Jesus. One of the principal marks of Jesus’ teaching is the overturning of social conventions. In service of what he calls the kingdom of God, God’s way of ordering the world, he says and does all sorts of outrageous things.
And one of the most striking and surprising of Jesus’ moves is a radical inclusion of women. He allows women into his inner circle (practically unheard of for a rabbi). He speaks publicly to the woman at the well. He engages with the Syro-Phoenician woman. He forgives the woman caught in adultery. And the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women.
Luke, who told this story, was a companion of Paul, and his Gospel reflects many of Paul’s themes. Paul famously says that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female.” This was very radical stuff in those times, for these were some of the most basic social divisions of the ancient world. Free men were a lot better off than slaves, Jews had huge advantages over Greeks, and males were seen as superior to females. But not anymore—not in light of the kingdom of God that Jesus announces.
Given all of this, can we see these women disciples as forerunners of all of the great women who have followed Jesus over the centuries? Can we see them as prototypes of Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Clare of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux, Teresa of Kolkata, Katharine Drexel, Edith Stein, and Dorothy Day?