Irony/Cowardice Overload Sunday 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Edition

Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.

Aristotle

If you are a Roman Catholic who went to mass Sunday you heard the readings from Lectionary 122 for the 21st Sunday in ordinary time. and if you paid attention to your Missal you might be subject to an Irony overload.

Everywhere that mass took place the faithful heard the same reading from the Book of Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18 where Joshua gives the people a choice to follow God or no declaring: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.

And also everywhere that mass took place that reading from Joshua was followed by the same responsorial Psalm verses from Psalm 34 (Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21) with the refrain: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”.

But depending on where you went to mass and the choice of the Pastor the next reading might have been different. The Lectionary calls for the 2nd reading to be from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:21-32 which goes like this:

Brothers and sisters:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.  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.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. 

He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother

        and be joined to his wife,

    and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

However an option is given to reduce this reading to Ephesians 5:2a, 25-32 adding the 1st part of verse 2 which looks like this (omitted verses in strikethrough, added verse in underline)

Brothers and sisters:

Live in love, as Christ loved us.

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.  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.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. 

He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother

        and be joined to his wife,

    and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

So as you can see rather than both Husbands and wives being subordinate to one another and each having duties the duties of the wife are omitted while the duties of the Husband are retained. This is done to avoid the anger of feminists within the church which is very ironic given that once you have exercised your option on the 2nd reading all congregations are given the same final Gospel reading, the end of Jesus the bread of life discourses in the Gospel of John 6:60-69 begins:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

However Jesus rather than equivocating or ducking the issue or offering an alternate teaching challenges his disciples:

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? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”


Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said,

“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

Jesus doesn’t back down one jot and because of this some of his disciples leave

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

At this Jesus turns to the twelve. Rather than having second thoughts about his teaching he doubles down and gives the same option to the apostles who come back with the right answer


Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

So think about that for a second. The very week that Jesus in the Gospel stands up for his teaching even if it costs him many disciples the US Bishops precede that critical moment with the option for the local pastor to run for cover in case anyone might be offended by divinely inspired scripture. This is a shame because the church teaches us that courage is one of the four cardinal virtues.

The irony is palatable, but not as palatable as the cowardice

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