A friend, a student of Fr. Richard Rohr, recently mentioned that the well-known writer and teacher has stopped referring to the period which closes his lectures as the “question and answer” session. He’s now labeling it “question and response” time. His change in words is very significant.
Having been reared as a Catholic against the background of Greek thought, either/or reasoning, I presumed catechisms were the end-all and be-all of a perfect faith. They supplied an answer for every question. But once I evolved into employing the Semitic, both/and mindset of our sacred authors, I discovered, as I mentioned several weeks ago, that we people of faith are fortunate just to be able to ask the right questions. Sometimes, instead of an answer, we simply receive a response which leads us to another question, often more complicated than our original query.
In today’s second reading, Paul tells us why a question/response process is essential to our Christian experience. We follow a person, not a set of rules and regulations. The Apostle writes Galatians because some in that church were convinced that the action which saved followers of Jesus wasn’t their relationship with him, but their observance of the 613 laws of Moses. Paul faithfully reminds all his communities that those who aspire to becoming other Christs must be willing to imitate the death and resurrection of the first Christ. Here Paul presents one of the ways the original Jewish Christians were expected to die. “Through the law,” he writes, “I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”
I presume many couples, on their wedding day, think all they have to do to have a successful marriage is to follow the rules our society and church have developed through the centuries to govern such an intimate relationship. I often encouraged my high school marriage course students to go beyond those rules as quickly as possible and concentrate on giving themselves as deeply as possible to their partners. Compared to such day by day generous, unpredictable giving, following rules and regulations is relatively easy - just like receiving answers to all our faith questions. Working constantly at being one with another is much more complicated. No wonder Paul had problems with the “law-abiding” Christians in Galatia.
As we hear in our first reading, there are times when not even Yahweh follows the rules. In this situation, God’s relationship with David, the adulterer and murderer, is more important than making certain David’s correctly punished for those crimes. Though the rules say he should die, Yahweh decrees he shall live.
In a parallel way, Luke not only has Jesus forgive the sinful, loving woman in today’s gospel pericope, but his words and actions bring up a question which still haunts Christianity today: how do women fit into Jesus’ plan of salvation?
We know from Mark and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death that the women, watching his crucifixion from a distance, had accompanied him to Jerusalem. Yet, long before Golgotha, even before Jesus begins his long Lucan journey to the city, the third evangelist names several women who not only were his disciples, but also provided for this itinerant preacher and his other followers “out of their resources.” For the rest of Luke’s gospel, whenever Jesus’ companions are mentioned, we’re to presume women are among them - quite different from popular depictions of Jesus and his disciples.
Against the background of the restrictions on women in our church today, Luke’s few lines on women not only raise some interesting questions, they should also prompt some interesting responses.