Thoughts on the Second Readings by Joe Frankenfield
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Once every year, when I was growing up, the pastor at Mass would read from Ephesians where Paul counsels wives to subordinate themselves to their husbands. I can still hear my father say to my mother as we were driving home, “So, did you hear the sermon today, Ruth? Don’t forget it.” To which my mother would reply, “It was stupid and you can forget it.” I was never quite certain whether my dad was serious or just teasing. I never doubted that my mom meant every word. Paul and our pastor not withstanding, that’s not how it worked in our home. That wasn’t how it worked in my friends homes either.
My family and most of my friends’ were Catholic. Everyone accepted the Bible as God’s word. On one level, we reacted simply: Paul was then; we are now. On a deeper level, we had an innate understanding that God shows us what’s good to know as we discover it. Revelation, like all God-given life, is a messy, evolving process.
As much as it disturbs the sleep of those charged with assaying and protecting what we’ve learned about life and life’s Creator, God reveals himself in all of creation and Jesus reveals everywhere his Spirit acts. Everyone has something to add to the Conversation. God stays the same; Jesus is a perfect touchstone of what we need to know about life and God but our understanding of what we’re given depends on how we experience life. Both life and our experience of it change constantly.
We listen to Paul and thank God for the wisdom he left us. At the same time, we set aside his words that don’t square with what we know about living our faith now. Those who follow us will do the same with our words and wisdom. We move ahead with full confidence in the Spirit of Jesus guiding us and, as a community, we will find an ever closer harmony with our creator and the future he’s giving us.