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The Week of August 20, 2017

The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time


 

Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings.

 


The Word…

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants—
all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

(from Is 56:1, 6-7)

Pondering the Word…

This past weekend, there was a vile demonstration of hate in the Virginia town where I spent my college days.  White supremacists, neo-Nazis—some of whom I imagine call themselves Christians—sowed violence and spewed hatred against foreigners, people of color, and I guess anyone else that doesn’t look or think or live the same way they do. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, and in other places around the world, similar acts of terrorism are perpetrated against Muslims, Christians, persons of different tribes, ethnic backgrounds, religions, or sexual orientation, the poor, etc.

Many of the readings this week have to do with the universality of God’s love, mercy, and call, something that we, at times, can forget or ignore. Why, even in today’s gospel, we see Jesus and his disciples need to be shaken up by a foreign woman to understand that their mission and message of salvation is for all peoples, not just “the lost sheep of Israel.”

God’s house is a house of prayer for ALL. Some say prayers in different languages. Some have other names for God. Some have rituals that seem strange to us. Perhaps others are true to the Spirit of Peace within without outwardly worshipping God. All those who join themselves to the Lord’s mission and message of love and compassion are welcome on his holy mountain. 

How is it they live for eons in such harmony—the billions of stars—

when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their mind against someone they know.

There are wars where no one marches with a flag, though that does not keep casualties from mounting.

Our hearts irrigate this earth. We are fields before each other.

How can we live in harmony? First we need to know: we are all madly in love with the same God.

(St. Thomas Aquinas, We are Fields before Each Other, from “Love Poems from God”)

 Living the Word…

It is easy and so tempting to throw up our hands and say there is nothing we can do.  But as Edmund Burke tells us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” We know violence begets violence, so continued heated arguments and attacks in the media do nothing but fan the flames of hate that burn within a small segment of the population.

Start with your own heart. Recognize and be honest with yourself about biases and prejudices that cause you to judge others without knowing them as individuals. Consider ways to encourage dialogue in your church or community. Volunteer with an organization that serves people you might otherwise avoid. Listen to their stories. If you consider yourself a good person, then do something. Don’t let evil have its way.


Aug 21: A young man approached Jesus: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?" ”If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He asked him, "Which ones?"  (Mt 19:16-22)

I see this young man, notebook in hand, looking for specifics: “Which commandments—give me a list so I can check them off and be guaranteed a spot in heaven.” There are people today who depend solely on following the rules as their ticket to eternal life, without considering the motivation of their hearts.  Jesus goes right to this young man’s heart when he tells him to sell all that he has and give to poor. He knows that, while the young man’s intentions are good, he’s missed the boat on commandment #1: his wealth is the god he serves, not the one, true God. Here’s prayer exercise to try: Put yourself in the place of the young man. Jesus sees your heart--your good intentions, but also those things that get in the way of committing your life to him. Open yourself up to hear what Jesus is calling you to surrender.

Aug 22: ”Go with the strength you have…. I shall be with you.” (Jgs 6:11-24)

If you are struggling with hardship, illness, addiction, depression…go to God with the strength you have. “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest response! We go to God because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”(George MacDonald)

Aug 23: “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? ... Are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:1-16)

We all can identify with the workers who feel gypped after having labored all day. Our human perception of fairness is based on control, centered on ourselves. Some still struggle with this when it comes to God’s love. WE control God’s love by our actions, so if we’ve been faithful all our lives, we should at least get better seats in heaven than those “Johnnies-come-lately” that line up for forgiveness just in the nick of time! Jesus challenges us to think differently. To rejoice, without jealousy or envy, over the blessings bestowed on others—even the latecomers--and to revel in the generosity of God’s bounteous love.

Aug 24: Nathanael said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:45-51)

Boy, is Nathanael judgmental! Nazareth is considered the “backwater” of the kingdom of Israel, and he doesn’t hesitate to let his opinion of the town and its inhabitants be known. Interestingly, Jesus acknowledges him as having no duplicity, perhaps for that very reason. Nathanael is not a hypocrite like many others Jesus encounters: those who say one thing and do another; those who make nice in front of someone, only to gossip about them later. We are wise to take a lesson from Nathanael. It is harder for us to learn from Jesus, to work on changing our perspective if we fail to acknowledge our prejudices to begin with. Consider this today: What biased opinions do I hold about others or people different from me that cause me to judge them negatively?

Aug 25: A scholar tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"(Mt 22:34-40)

I saw a New Yorker magazine cartoon that depicts Moses coming down from the mountain with the tablets. The caption has the people asking: “Are these the TOP Ten Commandments?” The scholar is testing Jesus, and like the young man we read about on Monday, he wants details.  Jesus responds simply: ‘Love God before all else. Love your neighbor as you want to be loved.’ We often want the details, but you know what? They are always available to us. All it takes is awareness. If we pay attention to and take the time to consider the events and opportunities life presents us, we can always ask for the Spirit’s guidance: “Lord, how can I best show I love you? Lead me to the right way to show love to all I encounter today.” It is as simple and as challenging as that.

Aug 26:  “The scribes and the Pharisees…widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.” (Mt 23:1-12)

A phylactery is a small leather box containing Jewish scripture. Orthodox Jewish men wear them on their foreheads as a symbol of keeping God’ word “top of mind.” Ostensibly, the wider the phylactery, the more pious the wearer. Jesus takes issue with those who make a show of holiness, but lack compassion in their hearts. I am always amazed to see people who wear crosses around their necks and preach hatred at the same time. Let’s make sure our public displays of faith reflect the real love of Christ we have in our hearts.
 


© 2017, Elaine H. Ireland.  “Come and See!”

Reflections are available at http://www.preacherexchange.com/comeandsee.htm

To receive “Come and See” via email, send a request to ehireland@loyola.edu


Elaine Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life. She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental psychology and spiritual guidance.  Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children, David and Maggie.

 

We hope you enjoy "Come and See!" and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at ehireland@loyola.edu with questions, comments, and responses.

 

© 2009, Elaine H. Ireland - Images@FaithClipart.com


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