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A reflection for the twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Kathleen Bonnette reflects on the readings for September 18, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:10-13

Reflection: The backbone of faith

The theme that stood out to me this week—and it begins as the obvious one—is the call to be in solidarity with those who are poor and marginalized. In our social, ecclesial, and political institutions, the scales are tipped tremendously against those who are desperate to make ends meet, who might be willing to trade their time, their bodies, or their talents for merely a pair of sandals. But the readings this week could not be clearer: We Catholics are called to work for justice in our personal interactions and public systems so that those on the margins are not exploited and can flourish.

At the same time, Paul reminds us to pray continually for our leaders, whether they are just or not, because God wills everyone to be saved. So rather than succumbing to hatred or anger toward those who oppress us or others, we should pray for their change of heart—even as we work to change the systems. As Paul writes in his letter to Timothy, “In every place the men should pray … without anger or argument.”

What readers might not realize, though, is that Paul, here, is addressing males, specifically—not human beings, generally. (He uses the Greek andras, rather than the more inclusive anthropos.) We might be tempted just to change our interpretation and expand our reading of this to include women—we are all called to reconciliatory prayer. But God raises up the lowly from the dust, and failing to grapple with the misogyny at work here merely sweeps it under the rug.

And misogyny it is—in Paul’s next paragraph, he gives instructions to women: Women are to dress modestly, perform good works, “receive instruction silently and under complete control,” and have no authority over men. His reasons? Adam was made first, and Eve was the one who was deceived and transgressed—i.e., women are not quite as intellectually God-like as men. There is good news, however: Women “will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

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Now, as a mother, I am sympathetic to that latter claim: Motherhood is baptism by fire. But we see here the dualism the early church sharpened between men—the fully rational humans––and women––marked by sensual physicality. Still, throughout church history, women of faith have offered themselves—their time, their talents, their bodies—in service. Women stayed with Jesus as he died and were the first to witness the resurrection and preach that Good News, and today women continue to be the backbone of faith, invigorating parishes everywhere. Women have remained “trustworthy in small matters.” I wonder when we will begin to trust women with great ones, too.

And yet—Paul tells us that Christ is our mediator. Christ bridges the gap between God and people, yes, but also between all the dualisms we try to maintain: male/female, rich/poor, clergy/lay, mind/body, spirit/matter. In the Incarnate Christ, all these achieve unity-in-difference. Christ, the “master” of the gospel parable, invites us to steward the world toward its fullness by inviting all people and our nonhuman neighbors to share their gifts without exploitation or exclusion—in our church and in society at large.

In the meantime, let us pray for our leaders and for the unity of the spirit that is the saving grace of all.

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About the author

Kathleen Bonnette

Kathleen Bonnette teaches theology at Georgetown University and in her parish's children's liturgy. She is the author of a forthcoming book that is part memoir, part theological adventure exploring the Catholic faith through the lens of interconnection rather than hierarchy. The working title is (R)evolutionary Hope: A Spirituality of Encounter, Conversion, and Transformative Grace, and it will be available next spring. Visit her website evolutionaryhope.wordpress.org or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @kbonnette_thd to learn more and connect.

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