Homily for Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Over the last few days now, the readings at Mass have been challenging us by inviting us to go deeper into the mission that has been entrusted to us as disciples of Jesus. For all of us, that mission is to go out and proclaim the Gospel. Yesterday’s readings gave us examples of how that mission is extended to everyone who encounters Jesus in their lives – despite who they are or what they have done; despite their imperfections and unworthiness. All of us are called to share with others about this person named Jesus and how He has changed our lives. But Jesus wants us to do more than just preach the Gospel. He wants us to apply Gospel truths to the situations facing our culture. He wants us to be countercultural, to stand against the tide. Jesus wants us to rock the boat.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus challenged the social conventions of His day. We have that example in today’s Gospel. We hear that Jesus is going around proclaiming the Good News to all the areas of the Holy Land together with His disciples. But there is an additional piece of information that Luke throws in there – some of Jesus’ disciples were women. And as we are aware from our knowledge of that time period, women were pretty much seen as second-class citizens, so for Jesus to include women in his traveling group of followers would have challenged the perceptions of many in His day.
This passage lists three female disciples of Jesus – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna – but we can be assured that there were many others. Each of them had some life-changing encounter with Him that made them want to leave everything behind and journey with Him, to learn from Him, to spend all their time with Him. Jesus freed Mary Magdalene from being possessed by evil spirits. Joanna, as the wife of Herod’s steward, was a member of the upper class in society. Why is all of this important? Because it shows that Jesus’ message was for everyone and that the mission that was entrusted to Him by the Father is a mission that is entrusted to all Christians…men and women, rich and poor, sinner and saint.
If Jesus were to come today, I wonder who He would spend most of His time with and who would make up His band of disciples. Think about the people in our world who are looked down upon. Jesus would probably seek them out first, bring them to a life-changing encounter with Him, and then rely on them to spread the Gospel to others. And that would likely challenge a lot of our own perceptions. But sometimes, those perceptions need to be challenged, because Jesus came to rock the boat. He came to get us to think differently. He came to change our vision and our mentality – to make us see with eyes of faith and to think with the mind of God. He came to challenge the societal norms and to be countercultural. We are now invited to do the same – to remind those around us that there is something better than this world can offer. So let’s get out there today and respond to Jesus’ invitation to rock the boat and boldly live out the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.