Deal with it, don’t duck it

Posted: August 23, 2009 by datechguy in catholic
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Last week for the table top baseball league I’m in I was playing over a friend’s house. They are very religious and have cards of many biblical quotes on the side of their walls. They are however both ex-Catholics and tend to tease about Holy Communion being a magic trick. So as you might guess John 6:53 doesn’t make the cut:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.

It’s a real peeve with me when people duck bits of the Gospel or the bible. Ironically today the ducking took place at many Masses and considering todays reading it’s quite ironic:

The first reading was from Joshua 24 the key verse being 15:

If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Basically a “choose sides” reading, you’ve seen what things are make up your mind.

John Chapter 6 has been the focus of the gospel reading for the last month and we concluded this week with verses 60-69: For the purpose of this post we are only interested up to verse 62.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Another choose sides, yeah it’s a tough saying can you handle it?

The theme of the sermon today was the Eucharist and it was a good one, but we never discussed today’s 2nd reading. It was Ephesins 5:21-33. We read the short form that omitted verses 22-24 they say:

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Now three or four years ago we did the long form and our priest gave a great sermon on its meaning in context, but I couldn’t get over the irony that we skipped that verse when the theme of the Gospel today was getting over a “hard saying”. From what Fr. Tom Washburn had to say we were likely not alone in skipping it:

This is perhaps the most dangerous passage in all of Scripture to preach on, in fact, most preachers usually try and avoid it. But, I feel a little dangerous today, so let’s give it a try

He does almost as good a job as Father Bob when he tackled it the whole thing is here the key bit:

The problem with this phrase from Colossians, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands,” is that we tend to isolate that passage out and not look at the rest of the reading. Alone, this passage is troubling and seems to support a subjugation of women, but it is out of context. When we look at the bigger picture, we find not a chauvinistic household, but one that is balanced; not one where husbands lord authority over wives, but one where everyone is subordinate, or the servant, to the other. There are two keys to this reading – the first is the initial words we heard today, “Brothers and sisters, be subordinate to one another.” We are all called to be in that position of subordination to each other, deferring to each other, serving each other. So, if “wives be subordinate to your husbands” is true; then it is also true to say, “husbands be subordinate to your wives,” “children be subordinate to your parents,” “parents be subordinate to your children.” This reading doesn’t want to perpetuate a power dynamic, it wants to eliminate it; leaving in its wake a community of servants.

Context is everything, people tend to hear what they want so when for example the rules on Meatless Fridays are relaxed they hear the eating meat part but not the “substitute sacrifice“. Our protestant friends take John 6:53-56 metaphorically while ignoring the context that Jesus actually challenges them on it and loses disciples over it. People either attack or overemphasize Ephesians 22:24 and ignore the context to suit their agendas.

The Church and scripture can stand on it own two feet. If we try to gimmick it as the ECLA did to fill the seats our seats won’t be worth filling. No pulling a Yale and ducking.

  1. It depends on how you take scripture. Not everyone, in fact not even most people of faith, see scripture as the literal Word of God, as dictated by him through human scribes. The context is found not only upon the pages of what has been decided to be included in the canon (by men) but also the time, place and what we know about the author’s. In fact, there is some doubt as to whether Paul was actually the author of Ephesians 22:24 as it is inconsistent with his actions and earlier writings. Even so, a specific request of the church in Ephesus is not necessarily a request of the church of today.

    But you are right; many Evangelicals, particularly fundamentalists, tend to stress Biblical literalism on the one hand and then read it metaphorically when it suits them. A clear example of this is in Matthew 25 where they will insist that Jesus speaks of hell as an actual place but easily ignore his statement that when we choose to serve or not serve others we are choosing or not choosing to serve him.

  2. […] No wonder the short form of today’s reading (Ephesins 5:21-33) left out verses 22-24. (I will post on that later today) […]

  3. Agreed. My point is precisely the same, except I would like to add that when we criticize others for being selective readers of scriptures we are just as guilty of the same offense. Those that emphasize the ‘hard’ teachings concerning divorce, homosexuality, sexual morality, drunkeness, (the ‘warm blooded sins’ as Dorothy Sayers puts it) are prone to ignore those other ‘harder’ teachings of self-sacrifice, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness and surrender. And of course, there are other examples of selective understanding or perhaps more accurately an evolution of understanding. Though a woman many not be ordained in a Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist church she no longer needs to wear a head covering (this exhortation of Paul’s was oringinally related to the church’s changing views on divorce, something that is hard to discern from only a reading of his letter)

    I am reminded of David’s indignation over Nathan’s story of the rich man eating the poor man’s lamb, his beloved family pet. He cries out that this man deserves to die and then Nathan points out that David himself is this man.

  4. A nun recently told my wife, who was raised Lutheran and is now a non-denominational Christian, that she was saved from Hell as she never knew the ‘truth’. I, on the other hand, having once been Roman Catholic and walked away from the ‘faith’, am doomed.

    Of course I now understand that Hell is not a biblical doctrine, but an amalgamation of Greek, Mesopotamian and Nordic myths. I have no real problem with those who believe in a place called Hell, just those who are so sure about who is going to be there. Jesus was pretty clear on this point – many people will be surprised at who God will acknowledge as obeying his will.

  5. Sandy says:

    I can maybe help you out on the John 6:53 with your Protestant friends being a convert. The one thing a Protestant will do is hold to the Word no matter how they see it. It is everything to them even if they skip a passage here and there, as they do not truly have the ability to see the Bible as one context being the overall plan of God. The reason for this is, you must remember the Catholic Church was handed down everything from God. Traditions, rituals, etc… No Protestant Church has these things. So you have to remember this first, when speaking with one. Everytime one of their Churches break off they leave something behind and that is the reason for the break off in the first place, they did not like it, so another Church will be thrown up and they get rid of it.

    What I always ask them is this regarding 6:53, did Jesus lie? Now many times no answer will come to you and that is okay the seed has been planted. Jesus cannot lie, they know this.

    Then you proceed. Jesus did not only say He was there He said, Amen, Amen, meaning “I promise you I am there.”

    Then take them to when the scoffers were there and He was teaching this and they left. He did not call them back and say, “Oh come back I only meant it as a symbol.” He let them go as He was speaking truth.

    Another one is how did the Apostles recognize Jesus after He rose? Through Holy Communion. That is how we recognize Jesus. Remember they thought He was a ghost.

    To a Protestant you have to be very detailed in what you want to show them. You cannot base anything on one Scripture alone even though they do at times. You have to make it all fit.

    Always remember again, they love the Word of God beyond all else and yes some make it fit their lifestyles.

    Peace Be With You

  6. Sandy, although I think you are correctly describing some Protestant mindsets you are also doing a great many of them a disservice. It is easy to generalize, as many Protestants have generalized about Roman Catholics, and both groups often hold to gross misrepresentations. The great problem here is that it leads to divisiveness over doctrine. It would be better if both ‘sides’ acknowledge the mysteries of God as being indeed mysterious and respect the other’s interpretations, none of which can ever be complete. (I am not advocating that we accept all theologies as ‘truth’ – particularly when they run counter to the Gospels)

    Datechguy -you certainly don’t feel that a belief in Hell is a litmus test for the faith, do you? Because that is certainly not something that uttered from the mouth of Jesus (or anyone else in scriptures). This is a tenet of Protestant fundamentalism and is a good example of how the idea of strict literalism can be tossed aside if the results fits the worldly mindset (vengeance and punishment over grace and mercy) of the person in question.

    As far as being a Christian goes, I do try to follow Jesus and find that I can relate to God through him. There are times in which I do not advertise that I am a “Christian” because Christians have, throughout history and to this day, often look nothing like Christ or even attempt to do so. And this can be said most decisively about the orthodox.

    And although I am no longer a member of the Roman Catholic church, and have not been so for nearly 30 years, I do not consider myself in anyway to be a Protestant as I am not protesting the Roman tradition of today. Other than to say that organized religion of all sorts often holds one back from encountering God for the sake of the ‘faith’. According to the Gospel accounts, this used to annoy Jesus to no end.

  7. Sandy says:

    Hey Christian,

    Oh how I agree with you regarding that we both respect each other on both sides and our views. After I posted the comment I re-read it, and thought, “Gee that did not sound very nice on two things I said,” and I with the most humble of hearts ask your forgiveness and do so apologize if in any way anyone took offense. I could have stated it much better no doubt. Again I am sorry.

    This is truly what I meant to say. In showing others Scripture and trying to make them understand the entire picture, we cannot use one line of Scripture most of the time to do so. We have to make them see the entire scope of things, in order to make them see and try and understand the mysteries of God if we can. Sometimes we cannot we must take it on faith alone.

    I know how it is to have someone take one verse and keep shoving it and shoving it down your throat. I am told at least once a day I am going to hell because I am a Catholic. Now no one ever told me that when I was a Protestant.

    I am still the same person and I still believe in and love God. My worship of Him is different, but because of this I am going to hell.

    I love Protestants I was one for many years. I love Catholics also. I also know as a Catholic when we try and make some see why we do what we do and we point to the overall picture of it, even if it is in the Bible, some will either say we are going to hell, or just pretend it is not there. I am sure this works on both sides, but again when I was a Protestant no one ever told me I was going to hell.

    None of will ever truly know it all until the day we die. It would be nice if we could all learn to live in peace with each other until that day comes. However, I do not see that happening in the near future.

    Again, I am sorry if I hurt anyone and I hope you forgive me. Sandy

  8. Hey, no feelings hurt hear. I remember someone once saying that Christian loses all excuse to find offense. Anyway, I pretty much agree with all that you just said.

  9. Sandy says:

    Finally Christian:>) I thought you were never going to speak to me again, and I have really felt awful about how I said what I did. The thing of it is after we post it, oh well…………
    I will be more careful from now on.

    It is hard sometimes for me, as part of me is still Protestant and the other part is Catholic, I love them both yet I still live in a world so divided among Christians. I try to be fair to both sides but eventually one will fail in that, when it comes down to beliefs and the like. That is when the choice has to be made.

    Thank you so much for kindness to me, and from now on I will be more careful with mine.

    God Bless, Sandy

  10. Sandy says:

    Oh I was not blaming anyone. I was just glad to hear that he was not mad at me. I said that in fun. Thanks though, Sandy