21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 26, 2012
Joshua 24.1-2, 15-17, 18 | Psalm 34 | Ephesians 4.32­-5.1-2, 21-32 | John 6.53, 60-69

Kathleen Giffin

August 20, 2012

The last few months have been occupied with preparations for my daughter's wedding. It is an exciting and happy time, and reminds me of my young adult life and my attitudes as I approached marriage.

That is the context in which I hear the Second Reading for this Sunday, a passage from St. Paul telling wives to be subject to their husbands in everything.

I didn't care much for that passage 28 years ago. It sounded to me like Paul following the cultural belief of his day, dressing it up a bit in holy language but nonetheless making women less than men.

I thought I knew better. It seemed pretty obvious to me that this was one piece of Scripture that needed to be received with skepticism.

The Gospel passage for this Sunday would probably have elicited the same response from many of the people in Jesus' time. Who can buy into the idea that "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you"? It sounds absurd.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. - Ephesians 5.21

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5.21

These are not the only Scripture passages that pose problems. And some of the teachings of the Church are equally problematic. I remember first hearing about the Church's teaching on artificial birth control, and being certain they didn't know what they were talking about (and that's where the cultural belief of my day would add some comment about old celibate men).

We humans like to rely on our own understanding, and I'm no exception. It starts when we are little, and mom says to toddler, "Hot, don't touch" and toddler needs to find out for herself.

It manifests all through the growing years by a disregard of parents' warnings about friends who are bad friends and lifestyle choices that will hurt and good decisions that need to be made. I somehow believed that I could know better than the adults, better than the Church, better than the Scriptures.


Fortunately some wisdom has come through the years. Some came from taking the time to try to understand what was truly meant, why something was taught. Reading Humanae Vitae gave insight and stopped me from carelessly tossing my unexamined opinions around.

Some change came through prayer, through genuinely wanting to understand and be conformed to God's ways. Some change came through life experience, seeing more deeply into our true nature, and recognizing God's action in our lives.

There are still some Scripture passages that I do not understand. Some of God's ways and words are mystery to me.

But I now desire sufficient humility to be patient in the face of the uncertainty of those things, to allow the wisdom of the Church to be the place where my opinions and understandings are judged and not the other way around. I desire the great and beautiful grace to be quiet within before that which is beyond my knowledge.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)