Immersed in Christ: August 5, 2020
WEDNESDAY of the EIGHTEENTH WEEK in Ordinary Time
The Responsorial Psalm promises: “The Lord will guard us, like a shepherd guarding his flock”
Jeremiah 31: 1-7 gives us an insight into God’s heart that should be the guide and underpinning of all our ministry to others: God simply delights in our well-being — always, no matter how we have acted toward him. He doesn’t hold grudges, has no desire to punish, no compulsion to make us “pay” for our sins. If God ever wants to “teach us a lesson,” that is all he wants to do: teach us, with no overtones of punishment. God will do good for any and everybody at any time in any way they can accept, regardless of what they deserve from him. Memories never moderate his giving.
Israel had brought suffering and disaster on herself by deserting the way of the Lord. Jeremiah described it vividly — and in the Old Testament style, adapted to the preconceptions of his hearers, he spoke as if God had sent their sufferings in punishment for their infidelity. But as soon as Israel is ready to repent and turn back to God, all God focuses on is how good and beautiful and happy his people can be: “You shall be rebuilt…. Adorned once more… you shall go out dancing gaily…. plant vineyards!” He is just happy for them.
All ministry subjects us to the risk of rejection. Failure hurts, and when we fail to convert people or make them better, we can get angry. That is because we are measuring justice instead of lavishing love. We need to simply join God in saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” – and rejoice in all well-being.
Matthew 15: 21-28 shows us Jesus breaking his own rules. His mission, and that of his disciples before his resurrection, was just to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matthew 10: 5-6). But when a Canaanite woman keeps crying out to him, “Son of David, take pity on me!” he subordinates his policy to her need. He looks, not at her nationality or religious orthodoxy, but at her faith in him: “Woman, you have great faith! Let your wish be granted.”
Ministry in the Church has to be guided by policies. But we should never let policy prevail over personal response to the faith, hope or desire visible in another. We ask, not whether a person is “in good standing,” but only whether someone is asking for help to know and experience God’s love. Jesus did not say, “If policy permits, feed my sheep.” He said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” That includes his “other sheep” who don’t quite fit in the fold (John 10:16, 21:17). We feed them all.
Initiative: Be a priest. Give to everyone who asks, guided by God’s love.