Persistence in Pursuit of Justice
“Because this widow keeps bothering me, I shall render a just decision for her.” We can choose our words. “Bothering” has a certain connotation. Being a pest about something is another. I have sometimes been accused of being a thorn in the side of someone, given my name.
To be relentless, to persist, to care so much that you are not afraid to speak out, to be bold, to use her voice—are other words to describe this widow, this woman. After all, what does she have to lose, given her status as a widow?
What do you suppose she was persistent about? What was she experiencing that demanded a just decision for her? What does justice look like today? Who are the women advocating for justice? Am I one of them? What am I willing to do for justice as an individual? Within my family? As a citizen of a powerful nation? As a Catholic?
In my own prayer and reflection, I often ask myself who and what I stand for. Most of the time this comes when I am being critical of what I see as unjust. If I am angry, I am not able to bring goodness. We don’t need greatness; we need goodness. If I am grounded in what Jesus teaches, I can be critical without adding to an enemy list. I am responsible for what I love. I cannot live with suffering without seeing it and doing something.
What is the something you will do this week as one who is persistent in pursuit of justice?
The Grateful One in Ten
“We are ten lepers, with scars and wounds—and hope for your healing touch. From our souls’ depths we raise our voices to you. ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’ As we glimpse the grace you pour upon us, we thank you.” (Anne Osdieck, https://liturgy.slu.edu/28OrdC101319/prayerpathmain.html)
I am so grateful to Anne for reminding me and us that at one time or another, we are all lepers. We can probably all name people we know, perhaps we ourselves have been “lepers” or the untouchables, shunned and avoided! Maybe it was when we were severely depressed. Maybe we were so angry, disgruntled and hard to be with. Maybe we were divorced and people took sides and blamed us. Maybe arguments over family inheritance or loyalties to family members led to shunning.
And then someone heard our cry (even the silent ones) and reached out and touched. Perhaps the healing came from a knowing glance, a tender look and a smile. Perhaps it was sitting in silence, accompanying, “sitting with” that provided a healing. Perhaps it was simple words of encouragement that give hope.
The Gospel reading focuses on the one in ten who came back and expressed gratitude—who gave thanks! Today we reflect on the times when we have “cried out for help,” received healing and expressed thanks. We approach the Eucharist each Sunday as “wounded” or “scarred” in need of healing, hoping for that touch, that glance, that person next to us who names us at the Greeting of Peace. And we say “Thank You.” That is the meaning of Eucharist—thanksgiving! And we the participants in this sacred liturgy are all the Body of Christ, reaching out and touching. And grace is poured upon us, individually and as a community, as a parish and as world Church.
Celebrate St. Francis
Build my Church! This was the message that St. Francis heard from Jesus in one of his many conversion experiences. As we celebrate the 18th anniversary of the dedication of our Church sanctuary on October 5, we have the opportunity to reflect on how we are “building” or “re-building” our Church and our Church community.
Our strengths in being a welcoming community, on providing opportunities to initiate new groups/communities for faith sharing and prayer experiences, and our emphasis on formation for the reception of all the sacraments are also our challenges for the future.
Are we inclusive in our invitations to participate in parish life? Do we have the same vitality and energy, the same, seeming wildness of St. Francis for the Gospel? Do we live the poverty, the dependence Francis had on Divine Providence, the Providence of God? Are we willing to accept suffering and the Cross in our lives? I invite you to take a moment to pray Art Laffin’s prayer to St. Francis at https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/prayer-feast-st-francis-assisi to help you meditate and reflect on these questions.
We celebrate our parish Feast Day this Sunday with prayer and thanksgiving at our Masses where we rededicate ourselves to living the mission of our parish.
We, the parish family of St. Francis of Assisi, formed in 1980, are gifted with wisdom, productivity and vitality. We are a Sacramental people journeying toward our Christian mission to know, love and serve Christ. To better know, love and serve Christ, we strive to emulate our patron, St. Francis of Assisi, by focusing our greater concern on the building of our people, giving our time, talent and treasures in reaching out to others, and promoting peace and harmony within God’s creation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to gather as community to grow in and strengthen our spirituality.
We also celebrate our community, our relationships with each other, and our working together to create stronger bonds with each other. We celebrate the ways that we serve our Church.
Join us at the FESTIVAL!
Be a Lazarus?
Are you familiar with any rich man and Lazarus stories in our lives today? Does it make you curious that only Lazarus is named? The rich man is generic. The poor man, the beggar has a name. Why do you think that is? Jesus has a reputation for turning things around, for turning them upside down. Often, the end result of his actions is not what we expect, or what our culture would promote.
Jesus reminds us that charity begins by seeing others through God’s eyes, as persons made in God’s image and worthy of our love and care. Who are the persons today that we might be called to see with “God’s eyes”? At the center of Catholic Social Teaching is the belief in the dignity of ALL persons.
Why do we have a responsibility to help those who are in need? How has your life been touched or changed when you have responded to someone in need? Have you spoken to someone about that conversion in your life?
Help me, Lord, to see the “Lazarus” that I meet this week. For this, let me/us work and pray!
God and Wealth
A poster I came across recently said: God does not need your money. God needs your heart! How perfectly this fits with this weekend’s readings! The prophet Amos warns that advancement or economic success should not mean trampling on the poor. His prophetic voice shouts out to proclaim God’s love and care for the poor. Wealth can exclude such love and care from our daily lives. And Luke tells us that we can’t serve both God and money. Do we choose God? Our patron, Saint Francis of Assisi, certainly did choose God.
Alice Camille in Exploring The Sunday Readings, a guide many of you use for your Small Church Communities (SCC) faith sharing, asks these questions:
If virtues were dollars, how wealthy would you be? If prayers were coins, would you have amassed a fortune yet? If kind words were cash, what would be in your piggy bank at the end of each day? If an automatic payment were made to your bank account every time you forgave someone a slight or an injury, would you be well on your way to a retirement home in kingdom come?
Lost and Found
One who wanders off, or becomes accidentally lost, or deliberately goes away—it is called being lost. Being lost is often being in a place where we don’t belong—a place unfamiliar to us, frightening or sometimes intimidating. Sometimes it is a condition of being ashamed of something. Or it can be a situation where we don’t go off physically, but we know that our heart is far from where it needs to be. This might be expressed as anger, bitterness or resentment, and a refusal to forgive.
What does it take for us to get back to where we belong? How do we get there? This week’s readings remind us that God is always in search of us. God is doing the searching for the lost, for the sinners, for those with hardened hearts. Do we need to be reminded of God’s immense and bounteous love for us all? That we are God’s delight?
We reflect also on what it means to be found, to be saved, to be restored to a right relationship of belonging? What is our response? The three stories lead us to God’s graciousness and tender mercy and our response of rejoicing and celebrating.
What will our celebration in the liturgy look like this weekend? How will we express our rejoicing? Will it be seen and felt in our gathering to celebrate, our eagerness to greet each other, our joy in receiving the Eucharist? Will it be sent forth into our life with family and friends, with co-workers and the various communities to which we belong? Does God need us to seek out someone who has wandered off, or gotten deliberately lost?
Discipleship might be described as “whole-hearted commitment.” In Luke’s gospel we read, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus insists on three conditions for discipleship. Subordinating everything to commitment to him, including the closest of family ties, is the first. Bearing the suffering that comes with following him is the second. And the third is the relinquishment of all possessions.
What keeps us from being able to whole-heartedly follow Jesus? How do we make following Jesus the center of our lives, a priority above all else? What possesses us and what do we need to leave behind to love the Lord fully? When we reflect on our lives, what do we value most? Do we value things or people more than we value the Lord?
I found this song a perfect ending to my own reflection on this week’s readings.
Pride vs. Humility
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” My notion of humility has changed over the years. As I reflect on my life experience, I realize that I used to think that humility was about being submissive and unseen, low key, and lowly. More recently I found a poster illustrating the difference between Pride and Humility. What it said is this:
How do you define humility? Why do you think that humility is such a significant virtue for a Christian?
With faith, effort and the help of God, all of us can grow in humility, in that change of heart that our Scripture readings for this weekend invite us to. Take the time to pray and ask for the “gift” of humility.
Do I Know You?
Limited offer, a narrow opportunity, seize the moment—these are expressions we often hear in marketing, especially when there is pressure to buy something or consume something. In our Gospel this weekend, the limited opportunity referred to is how we make our way into the Kingdom of God. What does it mean that Jesus says we must enter by the “narrow gate?” Will we, like those in this Gospel, hear Jesus say, “I do not know where you are from.” What if he stopped with the words, “I do not know you.”
When I joined the Sisters of Divine Providence by “entering the convent,” my brothers used to brag to their friends that they had it made to get into heaven because their sister was a nun. I would laugh and say, “You’re on your own there, buddy!” Imagine others saying, “You knew me, Jesus, a number of years ago when I made my First Holy Communion,” or, “my grandmother surely prayed me into your loving embrace.” There is no back door. There is no entitlement, but rather a clear, narrow focus on our relationship with Jesus.
So what will it take for us to make time for Jesus in our lives, to have a solid, real relationship? How will we provide opportunities for Jesus to know us?
Perhaps it will take some discipline—a social media sabbatical or a screenless Sunday, as one of my friends whose profession is in mental health suggested in a meeting this week. Turning off cell phones and other electronics gives us the freedom to be more attentive to God, to each other and to nature. We might discover the art of conversation again. We might come to know each other in new ways, see things we didn’t see before. We might re-discover Jesus!
We often sing “Christ be my vision” at Mass. Let this be our mantra this week.
Lord, Help Us!
Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours are very familiar with the opening dialogue: “O Lord, come to our assistance. O Lord, make haste to help us.” And I am pretty sure that each of us cries out “Lord, help us” quite often these days. In each case, we are acknowledging our dependence on God’s help! Perhaps we are dealing with beginning of school busyness and anxieties. Perhaps we are experiencing divisions at work or in our families. Perhaps we can’t stand to watch the “news” anymore because what we see and hear is so depressing.
And then this weekend we hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel. “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
What? More division? Jesus is reminding us that following him is not easy. When we answer the call to be disciples, to be Christian in word and deed, this sometimes stirs up anger and resentment in family and friends. Sometimes we even wonder how we hear or read the same Gospel and make excuses for our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are really quite different from what we would expect. To do what Jesus would do—to change oppressive structures, norms, expectations, views of women, strangers, lepers—is to follow a very different and difficult path. It led to Jesus’ crucifixion. For us, the change might be the fire, the one that is to set the earth on fire. We may want to take an easy way out—call it political, none of our business, too hard or expect someone else to do it. Most of the persons and communities that have been responsible for real change realized that the sure way to find peace was in God, not in humankind.
When has living the gospel put me at odds with another person or them at odds with me?
What keeps me from speaking the truth in love when I feel called to do so?
And so we pray: Provident and all-powerful God, you share your light of truth and passionately call us to transform our world. Guide our efforts to live our faith zealously, with fiery passion. Through Christ and with Christ our Lord’s assistance and aid. Amen!