From the Gospel of Luke:
Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 1:1-3 – October 12, 2012)
Three cheers for the women of the church! Seriously, it seems to have ever been thus: women do the “heavy lifting” but end up little noticed in the background. One wonders if Jesus and the twelve could have done what they did if these women “who provided for them out of their resources” had not been so generous . . . .
Some suggest the women offered what we would call domestic services for Jesus and the twelve; others that they joined them in preaching the kingdom; still others that they were wealthy benefactors. One auther, Renita Weems, writes: “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and other female traveling evangelists made up the band of female workers who surrendered and sacrificed everything to follow Jesus . . . . between teaching, they did the cooking; beyond recruiting, they did the mending; in excess of donating their funds, they donated their time.”
Frankly, I don’t know if there’s any support for such a vision of these women mending, cooking, or laundering, although it’s certainly possible. Nonetheless, it is pretty clear that they gave generously to Jesus’ mission; the gave their gifts, talents, time, money . . . . they gave, as Luke says, out of their resources, whatever those resources may have been. It was the women whose resources kept Jesus’ dream going. These women are paragons of generosity.
Throughout human history, financial support has been needed for any ministry that ever existed. Jesus and the twelve needed monetary support to carry on an active ministry that was dependent on the generosity of others. These women provided that support.
We all know the commonplace wisdom: look at a person’s checkbook, his or her monthly credit card statements or online banking report and you will gain insight as to the values and priorities by which he or she lives. If we had looked at the Magdalene’s statements, Joanna’s checkbook, and Susanna’s credit card receipts, we would have seen, at the top of their list of priorities, one name: Jesus.
Jesus is reported to have said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) I know that all too often my treasure and my heart are elsewhere than they ought to be. Every day, I need to remember, sometimes to relearn what these generous women knew: that my heart and my treasure belong to Jesus Christ!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.