FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time ( C )
Isaiah 66:10-14c | Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 | Galatians 6:14-18 | Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Today’s First reading provides us with the consolation that God sees our affliction. Saint Paul teaches us to participate in the sufferings of Christ and his Cross, so that we may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. Finally, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel to always to travel light because the less we have with us, the more room there is for God's message.
Our heavenly Father sees us at all times. There is a story of a family whose house in Sampaloc, Manila caught fire a couple of years ago. As each parent tried to grab a few belongings and a child’s hand to get out of the house as quickly as possible, Emily, their little daughter who was holding the father’s hand, broke free from his grip and ran upstairs to get her music box. However, when trying to come down again, she found that she was trapped by the enveloping flames. Emily was forced to flee to the roof and shouted for her father’s help. Emilio, the father, stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his daughter, "Emily, jump! I'll catch you." He knew the girl had to jump to save her life. All Emily could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, Emily was afraid to leave the roof. Emilio kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But Emily protested, "Tatay, I can't see you." The father replied, "Don’t worry honey, you just jump. I’m right under you and I will catch you. Although you can’t see me, I CAN SEE YOU and that's all that matters." The girl jumped, because she trusted his father.
Sometimes it may seem that God does not see that we are going through difficult circumstances. Sometimes, it seems that God has forgotten us and that He isn’t hearing our prayers. In the confusion of the events, we wonder, “Where is God in all this?” On the contrary, God sees us. He especially sees our affliction. The passage from our First reading recounts the Jews in deep despair over the slow rebuilding of their home town. Those who returned from exile faced an overwhelming task of rebuilding Jerusalem. The people live in miserable conditions: the land is occupied by exploiters, and the poor have neither house nor food nor clothes. Apparently the people were losing faith that God would restore things for them. The prophet Isaiah (The Lord saves) appears in the name of God among the exiles in Babylon and announces a continued promise of a glorious New Jerusalem. He urges everyone to return to the land of their fathers and promises prosperity, health, and peace! All that is required is that we then step out in faith and trust that the rest is in God’s hands. Like Emily who trusted his tatay Emilio completely, our complete confidence in God enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. I pray that if you’re suffering right now, you’ll see the God who sees you.
The French writer, Paul Claudel, wrote, “Christ did not come to do away with suffering; He did not come to explain it; He came to fill it with His presence.”
The second reading is the conclusion of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. It tells us to rejoice in the Cross, to rejoice in the suffering that we must endure in order to follow the Lord. Where is the comfort in that? A prevailing false teaching in some Christian circles is that, once we come to Jesus, God will give us material comforts or will make you Truly Rich. If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. He never asked his followers to do positive confession to the unbounded, limitless, overflowing abundance of God’s Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies in order to be blessed with material prosperity and security. Instead, Jesus advises that we make the smartest investment in the most secure place: Heaven. The challenge is for each one of us, when we suffer or are reviled or ridiculed, to identify with Christ. There is the comfort! As we seek Jesus, we slowly, even reluctantly, embrace the sufferings offered up to Him as a means to achieve greater union with Him, salvation. Let us take consolation in the words of the Dominican virgin and penitent Rosa of Lima, "Apart from the Cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven."
Sofia, a young woman brought Arnold, her fiancee to meet her parents. After dinner, her father asked the young man into his study for a chat. “So, what are your plans?” he began. “I’m a theology student, sir,” the young man replied. “Admirable!” the father said, “But what will you do to provide a nice home for my daughter?” “I will study and God will provide,” he explained. “And how will you afford to raise children?” “God will provide.” The men left the study and the mother asked her husband, “How did it go?” “He has no money or employment plans,” the father said. “But on the other hand, he thinks I’m God.”
It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work! Today's Gospel reports Jesus' pep talk to the disciples and the additional seventy-two who are now joining the ranks. He sends them out into the highways and byways, telling them to travel light — not to burden themselves with supplies or provisions. They are to carry no moneybag, no sack, no sandals. Nothing to cushion them from possible inconveniences “on the way.” Jesus gives this instruction to keep them from seeking comfort for themselves or embarrassing their host by asking for things that he or she cannot afford to give. The tools of our being sent forth are not in the accessories we carry with us, nor in what we believe are essentials for our travels, nor in our networking capabilities. With too much baggage, it is our baggage we serve, our own nests we feather. Material possessions are not as important as the message to be proclaimed. The less we have with us, the more room there is for the message. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how God would sustain us or how we could survive the difficulties of life until we learn to hold on to our faith and give our full trust and faith to God's providence. St. Francis of Assisi took these words to heart and threw away all his material possession and embraced Christ to follow. Mother Teresa had just 5 Indian rupees or ₱3.30 in her pocket when she founded the Missionaries of Charity. God, not material possessions, is the rock on which our ministry is founded. The wealth of a missionary is not his or her bank balance, but humble, simple trust in him who sends. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum