• Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Friday of Week Thirteen (Ordinary Time)


The Responsorial (Psalm 106) calls us to communal celebration: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”

In Genesis 23:1 to 24:67 Abraham tells his servant not to let his son Isaac marry a Canaanite woman from the new land in which he has settled, but to go back to his country and find a wife for Isaac from his own tribe. This was to “avoid contact with the religiously depraved inhabitants of Canaan.” Abraham knew how family members influence each other. He did not want his descendants to be unable to share what was deepest in their lives: their relationship with God, the stories of Yahweh’s interaction with them, their faith, their commitment to the Covenant.[1]

What this story teaches us is the importance and value of community.

A community is a “common unity” established and maintained by mutual expression. Whatever unites us — a common experience, commitment, faith — we are not aware that we share it until we express it. And when we keep expressing it in a “language” (words, symbols, actions) that we all understand, our sense of “common unity” continues and grows. For this, mutual expression is essential.

But the expression has to be credible: it must help us believe we all really do care about the experience, share the faith, are sincere in our commitment. Community depends on communal expression. To give, participate in and foster this expression is ministry. As priests by Baptism we were consecrated to give and animate the communal expression of faith, hope and love.

In Matthew 9: 9-13 Jesus establishes it as a fundamental principle that Christian community is not built on “righteousness.” On a commitment to righteousness, yes, but not on success in achieving it. Christian community depends on common faith in God’s word, hope in his promises, and love as St. Teresa defines it: a firm “determination to try to please God in everything.” This leaves room for sinners. In fact, on this earth there is no “communion of saints” except in a community of sinners.[2]

When Jesus called Levi to be a disciple and sat down to eat with him, the Pharisees were incensed. For them the “common unity” of Israel depended on external observance of the law, and Levi was in flagrant violation. But by quoting God’s heart — “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” — Jesus rooted our common unity in desire for what God desires as revealed in the words and actions of God’s self-revelation. We seek our common unity on the level of our hearts, which may — or, as in Levi’s case, may not — be revealed in our behavior. We build community on our desire to be one with God. We should not be quick to judge that all sins are incompatible with this desire. Nor should we take external signs of devotion — in ourselves or others — as proof of sincere religion.

Initiative: Be a priest. Express your heart. Bond with the invisible in others.

[1] See the Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, on this text, no. 79, with reference to Exodus 34:16.

[2] Interior Castle, Dwelling 4, ch. 1.

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