Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna and others who provided for them out of their own funds.
At the time of Jesus it was not uncommon for well-to-do ladies to financially support rabbis and their disciples out of their own property. But, as Dr. Ben Witherington, a specialist on the status of women in the New Testament, writes: “But for women to leave home and travel with a rabbi was not only unheard of, it was scandalous. Even more scandalous was the fact that women, both respectable and not, were among Jesus’ traveling companions” (ZNW 70 (1979) 244-5).
Jesus was a Jew of his time, yet he did not accept the prejudices of his contemporaries with regard to women. Neither should we, as his disciples, accept the prejudices of our time with regard to women. There is still a long way to go before women are treated as the equals of men in every sphere of human endeavor. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter to Women (June 29, 1995): “Thus far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.”
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