Posted by: Fr Chris | April 10, 2021

Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women

Jesus chooses to have these women be the first witnesses of the Resurrection. The angel tells them to go and announce the good news to the disciples – the men – and to give instructions to the men to go to Galilee. Jesus Himself appears to Mary Magdalene, and charges her to testify, to witness, to Peter and the other apostles. Women had no ability to testify in Jewish law courts, and needed a man’s testimony to back them up.  Jesus does not provide a soldier, or a gardener, or any other male figure. He empowers them by His Risen Presence, and sends them forward on their new mission

Tradition, through Sacred Scripture, preserves these names as the women who came to fulfill their duty to their slain Lord on Easter Sunday morning:

•   Mary Magdalene , who is known in the liturgy as “equal to the apostles”, and whose name Magdalene means either from Magdala, or being a hairdresser;
•   Mary, the wife of Cleophas , and mother of James and Joses; traditionally said to be relatives of Saint Joseph;
•   Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza who held a very important position under King Herod and Joanna benefited from his high place in the royal court. However Joanna is credited with rescuing the head of Saint John the Baptist from Herod’s court, and she abandoned a life of luxury and power to follow Jesus in His preaching ministry;
•   Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John  – she and her sons left Zebedee and a comfortable life as middle-class fishermen in order to walk with Christ;
•   Susanna  – of whom nothing is known other than that she is one of the women who supported Jesus out of her own pocket;
•   Mary, the sister of Lazarus , the one who sat at Jesus’ feet in Bethany and anointed Him before Palm Sunday;
•   Martha, the other sister of Lazarus , the one who was “busy with details of hospitality” but after the death of her brother testified to her living faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah.

Saint Luke writes that there were “many” women who followed Jesus during His preaching ministry and that they supported Him “out of their own substance,” or from their own money. These were women who came not only from lives of content, and even privilege – Joanna being from a palace – but who also had the courage to break out of the traditional semi-enclosure of Jewish women in that time and publicly follow this rabbi, without their male relatives to chaperone them.

We don’t always realize just how radical Jesus’ preaching and ministry was. Men were never supposed to be alone with women to whom they were not related by marriage or blood. But Jesus defies that barrier, along with other barriers. His family is composed of those who “hear the word of God and act upon it.” The disciples included married and single people, young and elderly, former public sinners, and upright citizens. And they were a mixed company in gender – even today such things would be considered unusual in most of the Asian world, and Jesus and his fellow Jews were indeed Asians. Those who push for women’s ordination and claim that the early Church had not ordained women because of patriarchal pressures in society forget that that same early Church was a radical community, which kept up Jesus’ other radical practices.

Notice that the women do not debate the niceties of Jewish law or custom with the Risen Lord: they are “incredulous for joy” and fulfill His charge. They become the first evangelists, the first announcers of the complete Good News: Jesus has come as Son of God, died for us, and been raised for us, and now raises us up to a whole new level of spiritual existence in Him.

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