Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

We are coming to the end of the five weeks reading from John’s Gospel with the last three Sundays on the discourse about the bread of life, the Eucharist. The followers at the time of Jesus were utterly confused. “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” is also something that to this day is quite widespread. Many, who had followed Jesus since the feeding of the five thousand on five loaves of bread and two fish, now give up on him and leave. It comes down to pure faith to stay with him, like Peter sums it up for all his followers at the time, and us today, “You have the word of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God”. Today we have the benefit of hindsight of what the Apostles learned at the last Supper, when Jesus took bread and wine and gave it to them to eat and drink as his body and blood. Before that, for many his discourse about his body and blood sounded more like an invitation to anthropophagy, which scared many of them. It remains a mystery, but we know it represent spiritual nourishment and involves the highest level of intimacy with Christ.

The First Reading from the book of Joshua presents another challenge about faith to the Israelites. They had finally gotten to the Promised Land, after forty years of desert wandering. Moses had died a few steps before arrival and Joshua had take over from him the leadership of the people. He challenges them to decide between the one and true God or other deities, like the gods of the Amorites, inhabitants of the land they had just entered. In todays time the gods of ‘Amorites’ are many, like money, excess in accumulating stuff, consumerism, etc.

Where am I on this? With Joshua, who professes for himself and his household to be with the God, who freed his ancestors from slavery? The First Reading concludes with a profession of faith of the people of Israel, “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God”.

The Second Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians is one of three places in the New Testament where household codes are documented. Codes were quite common in Greco-Roman Literature of the first century. This passage has been basis for many chauvinistic views about the relationship of husband and wife. Yet one can only fall into that pitfall by ignoring two key phrases. The first is right at the beginning, “Be subordinate to one another”, with emphasis on one another. This means reciprocal and not unidirectional. The second is when Paul compares the subordination of wives to husbands with the subordination of the church to Christ, with specific attention to Christ. For example at the Last Supper when Peter had to subordinate to Christ accepting the washing of his feet by the Lord. Christ is a very unique leader, in the sense that he serves the ones he leads. If we read this passage with those two ideas in mind, we come much closer to what remains a great mystery, like it is described in the concluding sentence.

The complete text of the readings at

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to


  1. Lieber Rainer,

    fuer Deine Fingerzeige und Denkanstoesse, aber auch das Herausstellen des Wesentlichen bin ich Dir sehr dankbar.

    Moege der liebe Gott Euch auch weiterhin sehr beschuetzen.

  2. The subordination 'clause' has seemed to cause folk much concern

    Your observation on what is the key word is often overlooked