I am guilty of being a hope-filled optimist. I like movies with happy endings. I cheer whole-heartedly for my team, even when I know there are slim odds they will win. At mass, I like to sing uplifting songs and hear a thought-provoking, and even motivational homily.
It shouldn’t be too surprising then, that I would look for the hope offered in this Sunday’s readings. After an initial read-through, I find myself drawn to the second reading from 1 Timothy(1 Tm 2:1-8). This reading begins by requesting “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings…for everyone,” including leaders. What a positive and appropriate way to start a letter to a faith community—prayer! I read on. God came for all people through Christ. Yes, very true. And the reading ends with a beautiful wish, “…that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.” Oops. It must be a linguist error, and it must have meant “people” instead of “men.” What a beautiful, and very necessary dream, that people from all over could come together and pray without disagreeing or fighting with one another. A dream many share.
A glutton for wanting to remain in this lovely image of the kingdom, I decide to read more from 1 Timothy.
POP! My bubble is burst. After this hope-filled image of people praying together, the letter continues by instructing reverent women to be silent. It declares that a woman should not teach or have any authority over a man. 1Timothy proceeds to defend this belief by using the old argument that Eve was the one who corrupted Adam. I stop reading. GRRRR!! In light of this, I am not under any illusion; the author really intended for his wish to be “men” not “people” coming together in prayer.
This is not a surprise. It is a disappointment. This is not the first time or the last time I will come across sexist language or teaching about the subordination of women. And so, I go through my very familiar, rational response:
- The author of 1 Timothy was writing in and for a patriarchal time period and culture.
- Fortunately, the Bishops did not include this misogynistic passage in the lectionary for this Sunday’s readings.
- And the parishioners sitting in the pews on Sunday will not hear this section of the second reading that I’ve just discovered.
Do I need to dwell on this or expend my energy on this part of our tradition? No, I don’t. And yet, I cannot seem to ignore it.
This experience is an ongoing one that I encounter. I look for answers. I am looking for hope. I return to the beginning of the reading that jarred me from my task at hand. “Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for [leaders] and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” Ah, yes. I remember what spoke to me when I first read this second reading. This is where I should begin—prayer. The words of Joan Chittister come to mind: “Prayer is not meant to change the world; prayer is meant to change us so that we will then change the world.” A message of truth and hope! A message of which I constantly need to be reminded. And so as I go through this next week encountering situations that dash my hopes, may I remember to pray—prayers of petition and prayers of thanksgiving. May the church remember to pray for all. May we have hope that the world will change, not magically, but through our lives and actions.
M. Nelle Carty has just returned from a year of traveling. She is splitting her time traveling between the U.K. and the U.S, until she gets married and makes the move to London.
Filed under: From the Pews in the Back |