Father David's Reflection for Sunday of Week Twenty-Eight (Ordinary Time)
Realization through Expression
What encourages you to keep trying to change the world? When you see or hear about the bad things people do, is it your constant practice to remember the good things you have seen or heard about God doing? Do you take note and acknowledge these good things by explicitly thanking God for them?
The Responsorial Psalm states a fact that the Alleluia verse calls us to celebrate: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Psalm 98). Therefore “In all circumstances, give thanks….” (1Thessalonians 5:18). The readings show us people doing this in order to encourage us to do likewise. But if we sometimes fail to give thanks and remember, the Entrance Antiphon assures us that the most important thing is not what we do, but what God is: “But you are forgiving, God of Israel.” That is also something to give thanks to God for — repeatedly.
In the Opening Prayer(s) we ask God to make his “love the foundation of our lives.” For this to be effectively real, there has to be an abiding awareness of his love that underlies everything we think, do and experience. We need to notice and acknowledge repeatedly that “the hand of God’s loving kindness” is guiding “all the moments of our day.” In order to assimilate his love for us, we ask “may our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others.” Loving makes us aware of being loved. When God gives us the power to love others — even our enemies — we begin to realize the scope of his power to love us.
Experience made aware
In the story of 2Kings 5: 14-17 Naaman made a common mistake. When he asked Elisha to cure him and was told to just go wash in the river, he did not think that was impressive enough:
“I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not … the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.
But his servants convinced him:
If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘”Wash, and be clean”?
And he was cured.
But the story doesn’t end there — just as none of our prayers to God should end when they are answered. Naaman “returned with his whole retinue” to Elisha to thank him and he acknowledged, “There is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” His awareness of who God was and what he had done for him became complete in his expression of faith and gratitude: “I will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.” The “dynamic triangle” of life, both human and divine, is awareness and expression augmented by sharing with others.
In Luke 27: 11-19 we see the same dynamic triangle: Jesus cured ten lepers, but when they became aware of their cure, only one returned to express that awareness in thanksgiving. And he shared the experience with everyone in hearing: “Praising God with a loud voice, he prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.” To him alone Jesus spoke the confirming words: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
The other nine were physically healed, but for them the event did not become the faith-experience it should have. And when God answers our prayers, the experience does not become for us the faith-experience it should be until we acknowledge his response with an expression of gratitude; one — depending on the nature of the event — preferably shared with others.
In 2Timothy 2: 8-13 St. Paul declares he will “bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen” — and entrusted to his care. Why? Because he believes in Christ’s power and victory: “we shall live with him… reign with him.” He is not discouraged: even “if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
God’s power and fidelity, not ours, is the foundation of our hope: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” Therefore “In all circumstances, give thanks….” “You are forgiving, God of Israel.”
For whom and for what are we responsible as stewards of Christ’s kingship? For the whole world and every person in it. We are committed by our baptismal consecration as “kings in the King” to bring every human heart, every area and activity of human life on earth, under the lifegiving reign of Christ. This is overwhelming. To persevere we need to remain aware, that “the hand of God’s loving kindness” is guiding “all the moments of our day.” To support us, “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” But we need to recall his great deeds and express the faith and hope to which they call us. “In all circumstances,” we need to “give thanks.”
The support of stewardship is faith-sharing and celebration.
How have you experienced God answering your prayers, intervening in your life? Did thanking him or sharing the experience with others add anything? What?
Form the habit of asking God for everything you need and thanking him for everything you receive.