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Thank you to all our catechists on this Catechetical Sunday! You’re the best!
Biblical Reflection on Sunday’s Word of God
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – September 18, 2016
By Rev. Mark S. Suslenko
As you know, on September 4, the person many have come to know as Mother Teresa of Kolkata was canonized and now stands with us as St. Teresa of Kolkata. Pope Francis remarked, “For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavor to her work, it was the ‘light’ which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.” Mother Teresa stood before the world as a living example of Christ with us, ministering to the poorest of the poor who had been cast aside by a system that often caters to injustice and disregard.
We can easily become complacent and ignore the cries of those who are poor. In fact, the prophet Amos tells us exactly that! “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” The continuation of this reading next weekend will show us how this attitude has led to self-destruction. Amos sees the destruction experienced in northern Israel as the direct result of complacency and indifference to the poor, outcast, and needy. Regardless of the scope of our sinfulness, I do not believe for one minute that God causes our demise or inflicts this type of “repayment” upon people for their misdeeds. However, what is to be considered is whether a habit of self-focused self-indulgence can and will eventually lead to the demise of an individual or to an entire nation. Trampling upon or ignoring anyone will always come back with negative results.
Mother Teresa saw a clear link between personal well-being, holiness, and service to the poor. As a woman who believed in Jesus Christ, even in her darkness she felt compelled to live this life of total service, bringing to fulfillment the vision God places before us. Our psalmist lays this out before us: “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor.” As Christians, it is important to consider the systemic causes of poverty and injustice. We need to continually challenge contemporary systems to see the light and truth of the Gospel. However, it is even more important to put our questions and even our doubts aside for a bit, being consumed less with dealing with why a person is hungry, and using our energy to simply feed them. We need to help God’s vision become a reality.
Jesus often spoke of the intimate linkage that exists between love of God and love of neighbor. It stands to reason then that if we are in a covenant, loving relationship with God then we are also in a covenant, loving relationship with each other. We cannot turn our backs on the needs of humanity, especially those that are so obvious and grave—the poor and the powerless.
This weekend Luke’s Gospel is a lesson in stewardship. We are blatantly told, “No servant can serve two masters.” The Christian has to be prudent and efficient in the matters of God and in care of others. In short, less energy must be spent on self-interest and more on the interest of others. We are called to be stewards who serve, not stewards who squander. What will convince us to make God’s vision our own? This is a matter of conversion, of allowing God to change the way we see.
Many often believe that true conversion comes only when the truly miraculous is witnessed—the parting of a sea, the rolling thunder of the sky, a phenomenal healing, or an actual theophany. Actually true conversion is more often experienced in subtle, human ways. Conversion, brought about by repentance, occurs when I finally humbly admit to being the lovingly created child of a God who delights in every fiber of my being, even if that God may seem distant at times or even nonexistent.
True faith happens when I persevere in spite of my doubt and live out this covenant relationship of love. If the unmistakably miraculous occurs, it may cause me to stand up and take notice a bit, restore a certain measure of faith but may also position me to expect more of the same in the future. Then, the sustenance of my faith will be linked to the extraordinary and I will continue to miss God opportunities in the ordinary stuff of life. And I will continue to lapse into the pursuit of self-interest.
If a heart is hardened, even actual testimony may not penetrate it. St. Teresa did what her heart told her to do. She knew that even when she was unable to feel God’s presence or even be certain of his existence, the road to love would inevitably lead back to him. And so, she persevered. Riches were of no consequence to her.
So what happens when we persevere on our often dimly lit path on the road of faith and love? We find ourselves stumbling upon other virtues that can assist with deepening our covenant relationships: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, gentleness, and a deepening desire for eternal life. Look at the life of Mother Teresa, the humble saint, and you will find all these things. Look at the life of any person who takes the command to love one’s neighbor seriously and you will find them as well.
How do we love our neighbor and honor their dignity? Not all of us can work in soup kitchens or find our way to Kolkata. Interestingly, Mother Teresa once told some folks that they can always find their own Kolkata. In other words, there is always need around us. Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting over the idea that my needs are more important than my neighbors’ and beginning to understand the intimate connection God’s love creates with all of my brothers and sisters and even creation. We need to become good and effective stewards. Once we change the lens through which we see life, then the way we live life will change as well and we give God more occasions to use us.
Mother Teresa did not start out seeking to be a saint. She just learned early on how to get herself out of the way.
FORMED is an exciting new website, where St. Stanislaus parishioners can access the best programs, movies, audio talks, and e-books to deepen their relationships with Christ and His Church. If offers amazing Faith Formation at the parish and in an engaging style with the best Catholic teachers, authors, and speakers, on-demand, 24/7. Watch the FORMED preview by clicking the formed banner above or the picture below. . .
How to access FORMED:
It’s easy! Log into Formed.org and access all the faith-building resources available there. You will need to set up an account (click on “My Account” in the upper right) and enter the Parish Code the first time you use the site. Our parish code is: ZR6M2C. After you’ve set up an account with your own individual password, you will not need the parish code any longer. Simply log in with the User Name and Password you have chosen for yourself.
Check it out . . . and get FORMED!
Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for September, 2016:
Join Pope Francis in prayer for the intentions he entrusted to the Church. For September 2016, we join the Holy Father in praying for:
Centrality of the Human Person – That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.
Mission to Evangelize – That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.
Pope Francis has called for an extraordinary Jubilee to encourage us to become more effective witnesses of God’s merciful love. The Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015 and continues until November 20, 2016. Pope Francis has encouraged the Church to make its mission be a witness of mercy to all people.
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the church; a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”
The Holy Father discusses mercy and his desires for the jubilee year in a document called Misericordiae Vultus, the official proclamation of the Year of Mercy. Follow the link to read the original text from the Vatican’s web site. How will YOU celebrate the Jubilee? The Pope asks each of us to celebrate by showing to others the mercy that God constantly extends to all of us. We can do the following concrete things to make this year spiritually fruitful:
- Contemplate Mercy in order to see how God gives Himself to us and asks nothing in return;
- Be attentive to the judgments and condemnations you make of others. We only see the surface actions; God sees the heart. Accept the good in every person;
- Forgive! Is anyone less worthy of forgiveness than ourselves? Forgiveness is an act of mercy not just for the person who impacted us badly but also for ourselves as well;
- Listen to/Study God’s Word. God is a God of mercy who mediates that throughout the pages of the bible.;
- Go on Pilgrimage to a Holy Door in our Archdiocese. The closest one to St. Stanislaus is located at the Polish Shrine of Our Lady in the Doylestown fringes;
- Recognize the need for mercy in the world, to the people of the world, especially the poor. Treat everyone with dignity and offer friendship;
- Practice the “Works of Mercy.” Can’t remember them? They are etched into the windows of St. Stanislaus Church;
- Ask God to change your heart so that God’s mercy can pour out to others through our hands, words, and actions.
Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee