Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Engaging Faith | Thu, Aug 20, 2009

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 23, 2009


Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Ephesians 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32

John 6:60-69


August 21: Islam: Start of Ramadan

August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

         [For info go to:]

August 26: Women's Equality Day (commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote)

August 29: anniversaryof Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005


The Catholic Church teaches that violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love. Instead, it treats the person as an object to be used. ...

Beginning with Genesis, Scripture teaches that women and men are created in God's image. Jesus himself always respected the human dignity of women. Pope John Paul II reminds us that "Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women."

U.S. Catholic Bishops

Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being.

Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 29

Feminist liberation theology hopes so to change unjust structures and distorted symbol systems that a new community in church and society becomes possible, a liberating community of all women and men characterized by mutuality with each other and harmony with the earth.

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, She Who Is, 31

... the Christ is not exclusively the glorified Jesus, but the glorified Jesus animating his body which is the Church.  Christ said to Paul ‘Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4) because the literal fact is that the Christ is composed of all the baptized.  This means that Christ, in contract to Jesus, is not male, or more exactly exclusively male.  Christ is quite accurately portrayed as black, old, Gentle, female, Asian, Polish. Christ is inclusively all the baptized.

Sandra Schneiders, Women and the Word

The Synod Fathers stated: "As an expression of her mission the Church must stand firmly against all forms of discrimination and abuse of women"(178). And again: "The dignity of women, gravely wounded in public esteem, must be restored through effective respect for the rights of the human person and by putting the teaching of the Church into practice."

John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 49

Thoughts for your consideration

In today's reading from Joshua, the people are called to renew their commitment to God.  God is identified as the God who liberated them from slavery and led them to freedom.  In the gospel, Peter and the others stay with Jesus precisely because he has been a source of life for them.  Jesus has liberated them and given them a new life.  This recommitment to liberation is still needed today as we deal with many situations of injustice.

The theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, in her book, She Who Is, writes:

"The fundamental sin is exploitation, whether it be expressed in the domination of male over female, white over black, rich over poor, strong over weak, armed military over unarmed civilians, human beings over nature.  These analogously abusive patterns interlock because they reset on the same base: a structure where an elite insists on its superiority and claims the right to exercise dominative power over all others considered subordinate, for its own benefit." 

The God of Joshua and the God of Peter is a God of liberation from all such exploitation.


Parts of the longer version of today's Ephesians reading can be very problematical, especially when one takes the line, "wives should be subordinate to their husbands" out of context.  The US Bishops point out that "Men who abuse often use Ephesians 5:22, taken out of context, to justify their behavior, but the passage (v. 21-33) refers to the mutual submission of husband and wife out of love for Christ. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body, as Christ loves the Church."

Read properly, the scriptures should never be used to justify violence toward and abuse of any other human being.  The gospel calls all of us to show mutual care and respect to one another.  This must be present in any healthy marriage or other committed relationship. 


This mutual love and respect must also extend to relationships between nations and other groups of people.  It must be reflected in the structures and rules of our society.

For example, we may want to reflect today on the inequality that women experience in various structures, laws and practices found in parts of our world.  [Women produce 60 to 80% of the food in most developing countries and this percentage is growing. In 1950 women performed almost 40% of agricultural work, today the figure is close to 50%. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, women provide 80% of staple foods; in Asia they perform 90% of the work in rice fields. At the same time they don't enjoy equal political power or other basic rights.] 

We may want to reflect on our nation's relationship with other nations.  Is it always one of mutual respect and genuine care for the other?  Is it a relationship where we learn from each other? Is there sometimes too much violence and manipulation? 

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

Where in your life do you see the need to experience liberation from some sort of exploitation or subordination?

"Crazy facts"

In the August 10th New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert wrote: "The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed."

Actions - Links
When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women

Tenth Anniversary Edition, A Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, addresses violence against women and the church's response.  To read it, go to:

A power point presentation is available online.

Network, the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby writes that we "now have a not-to-be-missed opportunity to make giant steps toward shaping the U.S. healthcare system to serve the common good."  

Prayers can be found at

  • You can send a quick e-mail to congress at:

A recent statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the Catholic Church and the ongoing national debate over health care reform can be found at:

A set of questions and answers can be found at:

Prayers of Intercession

Response:  God, listen to our prayers and set us free.

We pray for freedom for all those who experience any kind of oppression.

We pray for those who are "trapped" in difficult or abusive marriages.

We pray for those who feel trapped in low-wage jobs or difficult work situations.

We pray for those who have lost jobs and homes in the current economic crisis.

We pray for those who do not have access to good health care.

We pray for those oppressed by racism and other forms of discrimination.

We pray for all political prisoners and all those jailed for their beliefs.

We pray for those in prison in the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

We pray for all those who are in prison.


Liberator God

Set me free to see

To see the world as it is

To see its people as they are.

Divine Mother

Help me not to be afraid

Not to be afraid of the poor

Not to be afraid of the rich.

Joyful Friend:

Let me come alive

Alive this day in my prayer

Alive this day in my action

Alive with the works of justice and peace

Alive this day in your liberating spirit.


The prayer below is from the Bishops' statement listed above:

One source of healing we have in our lives as Christians is prayer. Psalm 55 may be an especially apt prayer for women who are dealing with abusive situations. With all of you we pray these verses:

Listen, God, to my prayer;
do not hide from my pleading;
hear me and give answer.

If an enemy had reviled me,
that I could bear;
If my foe had viewed me with contempt,
from that I could hide.
But it was you, my other self,
my comrade and friend,
You, whose company I enjoyed,
at whose side I walked
in procession in the house of God.

But I will call upon God,
and the Lord will save me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon
I will grieve and complain,
and my prayer will be heard.
(Ps 55:2-3, 13-15, 17-18)

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