Immersed in Christ: Thursday 8/10/17
(Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr)
The Entrance Antiphon gives us the key both to the life of Lawrence and to the readings: “Today let us
honor Saint Lawrence, who spent himself for the poor of the Church.” The Responsorial (Psalm 112) echoes it: “Happy the merciful who give to those in need.” Lawrence was martyred because when told him to hand over the presumed riches of the Church to the government he assembled the poor of Rome, pointed to them and said, “Here are the treasure of the Church.” The Roman officials did not take kindly to this. They burned him to death on a gridiron.
2Corinthians 9:6-10 pinpoints the principle that matches the spirit of Jesus, whose purpose in coming to earth was that human beings might “have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus just doesn’t know how to give in half measures. Neither should we.
Paul is making arrangements for the “bountiful gift” Corinth had promised to help the Church in Jerusalem. “Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints,” he writes, but “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
In John 12:24-26 Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” At Baptism we “died in Christ’ and “rose in Christ” to live solely as his body on earth. At Mass we “present our bodies” again as a “living sacrifice.” Wherever our live bodies are, we are “sacrificed” to giving life to others through the physical expression of our faith, of our hope and of God’s healing, life-enhancing love in us. “Happy the merciful who give to those in need.
Initiative: Be inspired by the example of Lawrence to see the poor as our treasure.
Same day August 10, 2017: Thursday, Week Eighteen
The Responsorial (Psalm 95) reminds us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Numbers 20: 1-13 teaches us to accept the fact that even God’s greatest ministers are not perfect. This encourages us to keep trying to minister to others in spite of our faults.
The people were dying of thirst in the desert and revolting against Moses for leading them out of Egypt. Then God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff in the presence of all the people, and he would bring water out of the rock. But Moses doubted. Instead of declaring that God was going to do, he hedged his bet by asking the people. “Are we going to bring water out of this rock?” And in his anxiety he hit the rock twice.
For this God blamed him: “You were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the Israelites.” Moses’ hesitancy was an obstacle that kept God from revealing his goodness and power as impressively as he intended and the people needed. But in spite of this lapse, Moses is still one of the greatest figures in Judeo-Christian history. His story simply warns us all, no matter how faithful we have been all our lives, that we have to keep listening daily and responding to God’s inspirations with discerning faith: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Matthew 16: 13-23 is a similar story. Peter, in the name of all the disciples, makes his great profession of faith in Christ’s identity, and for this Jesus gives him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” This is the origin of Peter’s “primacy” among the apostles and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome among other bishops. Jesus told Peter he was listening to the right voice: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
The first thing Peter does, however, after being made pope is to brush off what Jesus is saying and try to lead the Church astray! When Jesus said he was going to establish the Kingdom by dying on the cross, Peter said, “God forbid!” In response, Jesus spoke to Peter more fiercely than he spoke to any individual in the Gospels: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.” Peter had changed channels and was listening to the wrong voice: “You are thinking, not as God does, but as human beings do.” Peter failed to keep in mind the warning, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” He was reacting just as a Jew of his times, accepting the cultural expectations and prejudices of his milieu, “following the crowd” instead of listening to Jesus and the Spirit. If Peter could fall into this, it is obviously a pitfall all ministers must be on guard against.
In every Eucharistic Prayer we pray especially for the Pope and local bishops by name, and for all the bishops and clergy throughout the world. This is not because they are more important than others, but because of their special role and responsibility in preserving the unity of the Church. Our heartfelt prayer for them is, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Listen to God’s voice with a discerning heart.