Reflection of today’s Mass Readings

The readings for today’s Mass set me thinking. First there was the sentence in St. Paul about the ‘thorn in the flesh’. The Church has traditionally made maximum use of that, giving it an interpretation that may or may not be accurate, in order to support and strengthen its particular agenda about sexuality. It greatly helped in the Church’s efforts to make anything to do with sex the greatest sin. I happen to be reading some of the essays of John McGahern, and today I came across his reflection on sexuality:

“We are sexual from the moment we are born until we die; it grows as the body grows and fails with that body; but by then it has become part of the mind as well, the will and the intelligence and heart, which continues to grow even as the body fails and suffuses everything we hold precious or dear. The church I was brought up in tried to limit this powerful and abiding instinct to the functional act of procreation, surrounding it with shame and sin, as it directed the human act of becoming away from the passing world in which it is set to God and Eternity. What we love first is never what we love last, but without that first love we would never has been made whole or allowed into the world of love, and that entrance has to be through another person. When the passion is concentrated on another person, first or last, it carries within it the seeds of calamity as well as the promise of total happiness.”

I find this more real and healthy than most of what the Church has traditionally said on the subject.

Then we had the Gospel, about Jesus not getting a good reception in his own home place. Now I know that a lot has, and can, be written about the proper interpretation of the scriptures. But today’s Gospel reading makes a couple of very straight, simple statements, which the Church has managed to ignore or re-interpret. We are told that Jesus had four brothers, and an indefinite number of sisters. This does not fit with the Church’s need to present Jesus as the Son of God, conceived in a way that is different from other humans, and Mary as the perpetual virgin. So the scholars turned the brothers and sisters into cousins! Then the passage goes on to quote Jesus as saying that a prophet is not accepted in is own country, among his own people and his own house. This, I believe, is making a believable statement, that the family of Jesus found it hard to understand what he was about. But the Church, who wished to present an idealised version of the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary and Joseph living in peace and harmony — choose to quietly pass over these words of Jesus.
Not only that: these doctrines about Jesus, Mary and the Holy Family are now part of the essential doctrine of the Church that we all must accept.

Tony Flannery