Today’s readings force us to look at the limitations of humanity and culture. We realise that God’s revelation in the Scriptures was, and still is, bound to the grammar and the vocabulary of the particular men who first wrote them down, and the people who continue to translate them for us into languages that didn’t even exist 2,000 years ago.
The fact that the first reading today calls upon masters to treat their slaves with respect in no way mitigates the scandal of the acceptance of slavery as morally permissible. And yet it was these texts that supported and defended the slave trade in this country less than 200 years ago. But who would defend such an institution today? I doubt even the most reactionary among us would want to re-introduce slavery into our society.
God’s word is always made flesh in a particular time and culture along with all the limitations as well as the opportunities of that time and place. We can perhaps appreciate how this concept was a stumbling block for the Jews and ridiculous to the Greeks. We would like to think that God’s revelation could somehow transcend such limits.
We must wonder too where the blind spots of our culture lie. Can’t we imagine that years from now it will be inconceivable that abortion was ever an option for us? Will people wonder how we could ever have supported the death penalty? Perhaps, and this is even more worrisome, we must ask ourselves what we might be doing or not doing that we don’t even notice yet.
Today let us pray for insight into our traditions and the things we take for granted. Let us pray also for wisdom to see where we may be compromising God’s revelation.