by Myrta Moynihan
For the last year or so, I’ve been reading and meditating on the Sunday readings beforehand. It’s been interesting and fruitful. I am more aware of the readings themselves and better able to follow along. Furthermore, I’ve noticed patterns and relationships between the various texts. It is Year C in Ordinary Time and three of the Second Readings we heard last month come from I COR 12 and 13.
I’ve read this part of 1st Corinthians at various times in my life, but as we know, scripture is “ever ancient and ever new.” These passages are striking me in a different way today than in the past. Paul states that “there are different forms of service.” This line didn’t jump out at me until now. A great reminder that being in lay life isn’t “bad” or “less than.” Paul then lists spiritual gifts and his ending reminds us that these are actual gifts. God gives them “as he wishes.” As a result, I should not be jealous of others (though that can be easier said than done!). I should also have gratitude for the gifts I have received.
Next we had I COR 12:12-30 (I hope you heard the long version at Mass!). Once again, I’ve come across this passage a “million times” before. But I now realize that I only had gifts, talents or skills in mind when I heard or read this portion. The mouth (someone good at public speaking) cannot say to the arm (someone good at loving others), I don’t need you. We all have different gifts, of course! I’m sure I was in this frame of mind because it follows after the list of spiritual gifts.
But, this time I started reflecting on various states of life. Even if you only heard the short version (I COR 12:12-14,27), you’ll notice he mentions, “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons.” (vs 13) In my mind, this has to do with different “tribes,” ways of living, in-groups and out-groups. As a middle-aged, lay, single, woman, I am an outsider in Catholic communities. It could be easy for me to say to myself, “I do not belong to the body.” (vs15) And, let’s be honest, there are people in the church who have said “I do not need you” (vs 21) through their words, actions or both. But this is a lie. How do we know? Paul states, “But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.” (vs 18).
That’s great news! Even if I appear unwanted and unneeded in the Church, it’s not true. This also challenges me to step up and make sure that others feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging. Are there people on the fringes that are a part of your parish or community? Reach out to them!
Finally, this line struck me: “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary.” (vs 22). This restates the above point that the body needs us and we all have a place in the body. But then it takes it even further. If you feel like you don’t have value because you can’t contribute, are too weak, etc. that is a lie. I live in the USA and society tells us that if you can’t produce things, your life has no value. As a result, weakness is a liability and I must conclude that I have no value as a person. But our faith contradicts this message. When I realize how weak I am, my response should now be, “Yay for me!” That weakness makes me even more important and valuable!
Today let’s ask God for the spiritual gifts and thank him for those that we have already. Let’s also make an extra effort to tell ourselves and others the truth: We need you. You are necessary!
How do you feel in your parish or community? Do you feel like a necessary member of the body? Please comment below!
Thank you so much for your thoughts.
as a lay, middle-aged, single woman I can say I feel that same “not needed” disconnected feeling in my parish ( and at any parish I’ve gone to) For a long time I’ve felt that this is a needed ministry in the church (to find and connect the lay single people on the fringes and give them a sense of belonging).
I know you posted your reply a few months ago but I have just discovered this site yesterday and am reading older posts.
I agree with you: I believe a ministry of lay singles is much needed. All I’ve ever seen are activities for ‘young adults’. In addition, I think people tend to think of single people as people who are ‘not married yet’, as if being single us transitional, temporary…
Your description of ‘on the fringes’ is spot-on. Let’s both pray for each other on the fringes! 😊
Great post! Thank you so much for sharing. Yes, everyone within the Church belongs to the Body of Christ and is necessary! I am no longer a single woman, but a mom of two small children. I can’t participate in active ministry right now, but I did recently join the parish intercessory prayer team. I don’t always feel necessary at my parish, but my faith tells me the Lord can work through my little acts of prayer and sacrifice. Until I can do more, I will keep praying!
“as a lay, middle-aged, single woman I can say I feel that same “not needed” disconnected feeling in my parish ( and at any parish I’ve gone to) …”
Unfortunately, this is common in many Christian churches of different denominations. Sr. Joan Chittister wrote that most women are connected to the church through their children’s formation and activities, and once those are over (or if one never had children), there does not seem to be much of a role for women – married or single – other than teaching Sunday school, serving the coffee hour after church, and cleaning. You are not alone! It will be a challenge for the churches to welcome women into more roles as women remain able and willing to serve in middle age and beyond.