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Posted March 24, 2007

Book: Jesus: A Meditation on his stories and his relationships with women
Author: Andrew Greeley
A Tom Doherty Associates Book. New York. 2007. Pp. 172

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Jesus of Galilee taught through stories, which even today contain the power to startle us out of our prejudices and preconceptions. Now Father Andrew Greeley, one of America’s most beloved storytellers, examines the parables told by Jesus in search of a fuller understanding of the man and his message.

This engaging and informal collection of homilies reveals a Jesus whose simple parables carry profound lessons about the Kingdom of Heaven. Along the way, Father Greeley touches on such provocative topics as the significance of Jesus’ Jewish roots, his deep and revolutionary relationship wit women, The Da Vinci Code, and The Passion of the Christ. He also singles out the four greatest parables, which best illustrate the infinite love and mercy of God whose kingdom began with Jesus and continues even today.

As a storyteller, Jesus often surprised his listeners with unexpected twists that challenged them to see the world in a whole new light. Father Greeley’s insightful tour of the Gospels provides a fresh look at the parables that strips away centuries of false and mistaken interpretations to get at the essential truth of who Jesus really was and what he believed.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Fellow Travelers

He traveled from one town and village to another, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary of Magdala, from whom seven devils had gone out, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna and many others who provide for them out of their resources. Luke 8:1-3

Before I turn to the stories Jesus told, I will discuss the relationships of Jesus with women, which are the most astonishing of the stories told about him by those who knew him. Someone has remarked that the attitudes and behavior of Jesus with women in his time and place are enough by themselves to suggest that he might well be the Son of God.

The three verses above from St. Luke’s Gospel do not initially make much of an impression as one reads them today. Yes, the apostles and the holy women traveled around with Jesus, what is so impressive about that? But for both Jews and Gentiles of the times, it was profoundly shockin, another of Jesus’ dangerous surprises. What Jesus was doing was simply not done. Women may have ministered to the great rabbis of the Second Temple era, but they did not travel through the country with them. What terrible scandals might come of such an arrangement? What dreadful deeds might happen under the night sky of the desert? To make matters worse — and this would shock the Romans perhaps even more than the Jews – St. Luke practically equates the women travelers with the apostles. Not only was Jesus tolerating the inappropriate mixing of the sexes, he also seems to be proclaiming their equality, a logical conclusion of his Isaiahan vision perhaps, but yet dangerous – even today.

So unacceptable were such notions that the other three evangelists do not discuss the women who were part of the Jesus group until they stood at the foot of the cross. Luke, however, places them not only as fellow travelers but as those who were loyal in faith under the cross and loyal to the buried Jesus early in the morning on the first day of the week and thus suggests that in some ways they were superior in their faith in comparison to the apostles. Jesus took the universalism of Isaiah very seriously indeed.

Table of Contents:

The Christmas Surprises

A Surprise on the Highway

Jesus the Jew

Jesus and Women

The “Great Parables”

Other Parables

The Final Story