inclusive language in the lectionary

Today`s gospel reading is the story of Jesus inviting Peter and Andrew to be `fishers of men`. I use our Canadian Living With Christ  missalette for the daily readings. Our Canadian lectionary uses the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. But I misplaced November`s issue and have been reading the online versions from the USA. Today`s gospel reading reminded me of the differences in language between the Bibles that are used for our lectionaries. On January 24th, I posted a reflection on fishers of men, or people?  on the issue of inclusive language in our liturgy.

The NRSV translation had to go  through some revisions before getting official recognition from the Vatican. The process is explained on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) web-site. 

“The Lectionary is the result of important cooperation between members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and officials of the Holy See. While most of the Lectionary text has not been altered, changes have been made so that the Word proclaimed in our churches will be clearer or more accurate. “

A Back-grounder on the Canadian Lectionary  (link is available on the same page) states

The Commission also wanted to be faithful to the wish of the Second Vatican Council that it would be preferable to have a version of Sacred Scripture which all Christians could use in common. To do this would be in keeping with the opening paragraph of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which saw as one of the principal goals of liturgical renewal “to nurture whatever can contribute to the unity of all who believe in Christ” (Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 1).
With these criteria in mind (suitability for public proclamation, fidelity to the original Scriptural text, possibility of ecumenical use), the Commission recommended the adoption of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible as the basis of the Canadian Lectionary. (emphases mine)

The principle used for inclusive language was

When the original language was clearly intended to include both males and females, the translation was to be inclusive; when the original language was clearly meant to be gender specific, this was to be respected in the translation.

Cooperation and collaboration between our Bishops conference and the officials at the Vatican. A desire for opening doors for ecumenical unity. A respectful use of inclusive language while remaining faithful to the integrity of scriptural scholarship. And an acknowledgement that the language used must be suitable for public proclamation.

We did the Lectionary right.

wisdom vs. knowledge

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2. 

Memorizing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit was part of our catechism lessons growing up, especially when preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation. In all honesty, I’ve always struggled to differentiate between wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Teaching them to youngsters was even harder. The definitions are filled with theological acrobatics and subtleties, and my brain fails me every time. Perhaps I haven’t been given a big enough dose of the gifts to understand them!

The difference between wisdom and knowledge is something that I’ve pondered often; not from a theological point of view but from every day, practical experience. We all know people who might have book smarts but aren’t the wisest folks around. And, we also know women and men of deep wisdom who don’t have a list of degrees behind their name.

Wisdom requires taking knowledge and experience and using it holistically to see how it fits into the bigger picture. It requires pondering and critical thinking. Yes, it requires intuition, but I believe intuition comes from reflecting on past and present experiences. Intuitive people are thinkers, and thinking goes beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge and facts.

Here’s an example. Our daughter`s physical therapy studies included a heavy work-load of anatomy and physiology courses. She observed how some students memorized and crammed for the exams, but lost the knowledge by the next day.

For our daughter, a white board and markers were her study buddy. She not only wrote out definitions over and over, but she constantly drew diagrams of relation. She didn’t feel she truly learned a concept or process until she understood how it fit into the bigger picture. To this day, she can rattle off complicated physiological processes and explain the cause and effect of an ailment. But, she also has the gift to formulate it into simple enough terms that even I can understand.

The need to go beyond knowledge to seek deeper wisdom is important in our faith lives. And, it’s important in our religious conversations. Our faith is of the mind and the heart, and we need to connect them both.

Apologetics is a form of defending the faith by becoming well-versed in Scripture and the theological teachings of the Church. A lot of hard work goes into attaining a solid grounding in the Bible and Catechism. But, sometimes it turns into an intellectual exercise in right and wrong, black and white. This is apparent on some online discussion boards. You are wrong, and here’s the proof. What don’t you understand? End of discussion!

On the other hand, rooting our faith in a vague spirituality, based only on the heart while excluding the mind, does not equip us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1Peter 3:15)

Our efforts at dialogue can be stifled when we don`t stop and try to understand how the other is thinking. For some souls, an authoritative answer is all that is needed. Other souls have a need to question, to try to understand how a specific belief or teaching fits into the bigger picture; or even question if it actually does. Again, a combative debate will seldom change minds and hearts. But a respectful dialogue will deepen the conversation rather than try to stop it in mid-stream.

Our Calendar of Saints is filled with great intellectuals. But, it is also filled with women and men who had a deep understanding of the gospel message of love and service. Their wisdom was reflected in the simplicity of their words and actions. Thérèse of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Brother André, Mother Teresa of Calcutta are just some examples of holy women and men of wisdom.

Our own lives are blessed with truly wise souls.  The parents who you still depend on for advice. Your children. (When did they get so wise?) The family doctor who uses their knowledge to treat the whole person, and not just the symptoms. The priest who welcomes and invites and not condemns. The spouse or friend who is able to look beyond the tangled mess of emotions and help you to see things in a different light. Here`s to them all!

our own swords and plough shares

“and they shall beat their swords into plough shares.” Isaiah 2:4 

Advent is my favorite liturgical season. We are invited to travel with the prophets on a journey of waiting and longing. We see visions of heavenly feasts where righteousness and justice reign. We are promised a future of peace and tranquility, where love trumps violence and hatred. Our present struggles will fall by the wayside along smooth, straight paths.

Prophets know the power of the poetic word or phrase. It stops us in our tracks, nudging us into deeper pondering. Beating swords into plough shares is one of these phrases. Take a quiet moment to reflect on the richness of this image. What does it mean to our world today? What challenges does it bring? How can we respond to make this vision a reality?

Sadly, our world is filled with too many examples of scarce resources being used for war while millions of people are starving. We can point a finger at countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. We can turn the same finger back on ourselves when our national resources are used for unjust wars and the build-up of weapons rather than peace-keeping. It boggles the mind to think of the global imbalance caused by war; where swords are becoming increasingly expensive and whole populations are dying of hunger.

What about the swords and plough shares in our own lives? Do we use the gifts and resources given to us to promote peace and unity, or dissent and division? Our words and actions have the power to slay for good or for evil. Working for a peaceful and just world does not mean being silent. It requires entering into difficult conversations; passive door-mats need not apply. But, how good are we at dialogue within our own families, our neighbourhoods, our places of work, our schools, and our churches?

What swords do I need to hammer into plough shares? This is a constant challenge with my writing. It’s a fine line between having a good, cathartic rant and using your words to attack. When an issue is close to my heart, it is easy to fuel the flames of dissent – in myself and in others. The flames have the power to heat up my personal views. Witty words add fuel, as does the support of kindred spirits.

I am not saying that we shouldn`t share our experiences openly and honestly. On the contrary! It is important that our voices are heard, and that we listen to the voices of all. But, once we have spoken, how do we take our own passions and unite them for the greater good? How do we hammer our own issues into plough-shares for peace in our church and our world?