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  • Father David M. Knight

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

The Responsorial (Psalm 116) encourages us to celebrate God’s saving work: “I will take the cup of salvation,

and call on the name of the Lord.”

Exodus 11: 10-14 presents us with the root source of everything God does to heal and save us. Before God delivered his people from the slavery of Egypt he had them sacrifice the “paschal lamb.” “Pasch” is the Hebrew for “Passover, and “paschal” means anything related to the feast of Passover, which celebrated the night the destroying angel “passed over” the houses marked with the blood of the lamb. The lamb was a preview of Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, whose sacrifice on the cross delivered the human race from bondage to sin. So for Christians “paschal” also refers to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This reading reminds us that the power of all ministry comes from Christ’s death on the cross. Matthew says this in an apparent non-sequitur, after he reports Jesus’ healing miracles: “This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’”[1] Nothing else in the text connects Jesus’ healing with his suffering, but for Matthew it was a given. It all goes back to the blood of Christ. When we minister to others we are making Christ’s passion and death on the cross present to them. We minister with the paschal power of the cross; all the fruitfulness of Christian ministry comes ultimately from the blood of the Lamb, the “cup” we drink at Mass: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. ”

The Great Rule of ministry is “Feed my sheep!” In Matthew 12: 1-8: Jesus is applying this when he answers the Pharisees with a barrage of examples in which ministry takes priority over law: David feeding his troops; the priests serving in the temple; and finally, Jesus himself, who as the ministerial presence of the living God is “Lord of the Sabbath,” “greater than the temple,” Lord of the temple, and Lord of religion itself.[2]

When Jesus says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” he is proclaiming the priority of relationship over rules, of love over law, of ministry over minutiae, and of “spirituality” (conscious, personal interaction with God) over “religion” understood just as an impersonal system of doctrines, laws and practices. Christians minister as the living, loving presence of Jesus on earth, giving life through contact, not conformity. What saves is the living power of his blood poured out in love. We affirm this in Eucharistic Prayer II when we say, “We offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup.”

In the Mass the words of the Responsorial Psalm take on their full meaning: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. ”

Initiative: Be a priest. Make Christ present by embodying his love.

[1] Matthew 8:17.

[2] John 21: 15-17; John 2:14-22; Matthew 9: 14-15.

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