Give Them a Break!
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1-32
John chapter 6, verses 53-69

In spite of the impressive pledge of loyalty that is central to our first reading, this could be called “Rejection Sunday.”

In the Gospel we have not only a few but many of Jesus’ disciples abandoning him because they could not accept what they understood to be his teaching relative to the Eucharist.

After the second reading we are invited to give thanks to God for some things that Paul said that have not exactly helped his popularity rating.

Jesus and Paul are both victims of misunderstanding and rash judgment. In Paul’s case he is branded as a chauvinist when, in reality, taken in their historical and social context, his words were revolutionary in their support for the rights of women and in their affirmation of the dignity of all people.

When this particular letter was first shared by the citizens of Ephesus almost two thousand years ago, it is probable that most of the men reacted with a great deal of anxiety since their traditional position of lord and master was clearly being challenged…at least in so far as the manner of its exercise was concerned. In order to be considered morally acceptable in the Christian community, a man’s authority was henceforth to be exercised within the context of Christ-like self-effacing devotion.

This, while admittedly not satisfying the aspirations of thinking people of the 21st century was, none the less, in the 1st century, a giant step in the right direction. Paul was not so naïve as to think that he could turn the whole Judeo-Greco-Roman social structure upside down. This was also obvious in the light of his attitude toward slavery.

Jesus too, was, and continues to be, misinterpreted and misjudged. He told a large group of his disciples that he was going to make it possible for them to become as intimately related to him as they were to the closest members of their families. As they listened to his explanation of how this would come about, some of them jumped to the conclusion that he was suggesting some weird form of ritualistic cannibalism and we are told that they dropped him then and there.

I don’t think that those who opted to stay with him did so because they grasped the sublime concept of Holy Communion. I think they stayed because they trusted Jesus. As with their forefathers and Abraham, they trusted even though they did not fully understand.

Some people malign Paul because they fail to take the time to understand the historic significance of what he said. Some people turned away from Jesus because they completely misunderstood his meaning. Most of these people, both contemporary and ancient should have known better because they had more than ample reason to trust. To trust Paul. To trust Jesus.

It seems to me that we often look for reasons not to trust those whom we know we ought to trust.

Our attitude in this regard is worth some reflection. Too many of us seem to be too ready to reject those people or institutions that have, time and again, earned our trust.

We have so much to loose!

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