Thursday, September 18, 2008

Behind the Scenes

Readings for Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Januarius

Often, when I read the Gospel, I try to place myself in the story. I try to stand in the place of one of the main characters like Peter, James, or John. With other readings I try to imagine myself as a bystander, a curious onlooker, a devoted disciple, or even a Pharisee. I have found this practice to be very beneficial in drawing more out of the Gospel. I have found it helpful in applying the lessons to my own life.

In today’s Gospel, I found this placement difficult at first and then very humbling. In today’s Gospel the main characters are Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and two other women who appear to have no other purpose in life than to appear in this short, seemingly insignificant paragraph in Luke’s Gospel. I never place myself in the role of Jesus for obvious reasons. Hardly ever do I become a woman, especially a Joanna or a Susanna who we never hear about again.

However, upon further meditation, I realized that that is exactly the point of the Gospel reading for today. These women were not the “superstars” of Gospel. They were not John, Peter, Mary, Paul, or even Stephen. Yet they were crucial to the ministry of Jesus. They didn’t share the spotlight with Jesus and His followers but rather worked behind the scenes.

The Gospel says that they “provided for them out of their means.” In reading the Gospel I hardly think of Jesus eating unless it is mentioned in the Gospel. I hardly read about Him sleeping and I never read about Him washing His clothes.

Today’s Gospel shows me in a roundabout way the human life of Jesus and His followers. For those three years of traveling and preaching they had to eat, sleep, take care of themselves, study, and have recreation. For this unruly band to stay together they needed help, they needed an entourage that helped make it happen. These three women “and many others” were Jesus’ entourage. They helped make the mission of the Messiah happen on a very practical level.

Were these women forced into service? Were they trying to earn their way into the Kingdom? Did they feel as though they were being treated unequally by Jesus? Were they jealous of Peter and the apostles? Indeed they were not. They served the Lord because of all He had done for them. Their service was given freely because He had given them their freedom. They cried out with the psalmist, “How can I repay the Lord for all He has done for me.” They put their gifts and talents in the service of Christ and His followers.

The question for me today is this, “Am I ready to serve? Am I ready to take the lowest place in the mission? Am I ready to put away my pride, remain nameless and unappreciated by the world, to help further the mission and the Kingdom of the Messiah? Am I ready to offer to God my gifts and talents even in the most menial hidden tasks that no one but He and I see?” If my answer to these questions is “yes” then I am not far from the Kingdom. Then I too am part of His entourage, part of His crew that is quietly but fervently building the Kingdom of God!

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