THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF YEAR A
Achieving Tomorrow, Today
Questions to Ask Yourself
What does it say to you that every Mass ends with the word “Go!”? “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Or: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Or: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Or: “Go in
Ideas to Consider
In the Entrance Antiphon (Psalm 118) we ask God, “Show mercy when you judge me, your servant.” The “servant” role the readings focus on is that of a faithful steward with responsibility to look over the wellbeing of God’s people who in turn are charged with responsibility for the world. We consider ourselves accountable for trying to establish God’s reign of peace and unity on earth and in heaven.
In the Opening Prayer we ask God to “bring us to the inheritance you promised.” This is not only the “Promised Land” of heaven, but also the Kingdom to be realized on earth through human beings cooperating with God. That we might do this in willing union with Jesus and his Spirit, we ask for the gift of “true freedom.” And since we cannot appreciate or work to improve what we do not know, we ask the Father of creation to “open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us.” If we love our lives in this world, we will work to make this world an environment that enhances life for all.
In the Prayer after Communion we take note of the role Eucharist plays in this work of caring for the cosmos. “Lord, your word and your sacrament give us food and life.” Eucharist nourishes faith, hope and love. In the strength of the Bread of Life we will spend ourselves that all might have life, “life to the full” (John 10:10).
Source, Summit and Summons
Ezekiel 33:7-9 gives us the “watchman” role. The first act of stewardship, of leadership, or of taking responsibility for anything, is to notice what needs to be addressed. The second duty is to respond in whatever way is called for. This includes something both cowardice and culture disincline us to do: speaking out to “dissuade the wicked from their ways.” John Paul II said the failure to speak out is a failure to live up to our Christian responsibility:
Whenever the Church speaks of... “social sins”... or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she... proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins:... of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence. [This happens] through the secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world; and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required..... The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals.1 This returns us to the Entrance Antiphon: “Show mercy when you judge me, your servant.” It gives special urgency to the Responsorial (Psalm 95): “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (See John Paul II’s closing exhortation after the Synod on Reconciliation, Rome, December 2, 1984, par.31).
Where do we hear his voice? One answer, of course, is “Everywhere.” If we have the alertness of “stewards of the kingship of Christ,” we will hear his voice in anything that cries out for correction. Responsibility and leadership have ears. We may be surprised to learn, however, that we also hear his voice summoning us to transform society in the celebration of Eucharist — and particularly during the Rite of Communion. In the Eucharistic celebration we look forward to the “end time,” as to something that is not just going to happen, but that we are charged to bring about.
The eschatological dimension of the Eucharist is... the least understood dimension of Eucharistic faith.... [It] lingers in the popular imagination as a banquet somewhere in the distant future which will be the reward of all who have lived faithful Christian lives
Vatican II brought this eschatological dimension into fresh focus both theologically and liturgically.... It restored the Eucharist as a sacrament of “journey,” by recapturing it as a sacrament of ongoing Christian initiation (R.C.I.A.). Liturgically the conciliar reform restored the invocation for unity (epiclesis) as a major and explicit hope, a hope that expresses as well yearning and longing for all to be gathered into one.
The reform also restored the sense of “waiting” which is at the heart of eschatological prayer. “As we await the blessed hope and the coming [manifestation] of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” It offered explicit images of “looking forward”: “There, with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you through Christ our Lord” and “so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.” And it gave sharp notice to the Holy Spirit as the agent of God’s unfinished work by naming the Spirit as the one sent “to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace” (Peter Fink, S.J., New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, Liturgical Press, 1990, “Eucharist, Theology of”).
The Eucharist, and especially the union with God and one another we experience in Communion, contains within itself both a vision of completeness and an experience of incompleteness which ought to evoke restless yearning as well as simple thanksgiving.... It invites and challenges all in the assembly to choose beyond what is into the ‘not yet,’ toward a greater and greater realization of that future which the Eucharist holds out to us..4
Communion launches us.
How to disagree
Trying to change things can cause fights. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus teaches us a loving way to disagree with each other. First, he says, go directly to the person you disagree with, one on one. Don’t criticize the person to everyone else first, gathering a lynch mob at your back. And don’t go first to the authorities (pastor, bishop, etc.). Speak to your brother or sister on equal terms. “Go and point out the fault, but keep it between the two of you.” See if you can come peacefully to an understanding. One on one.
If you can’t, Jesus says, “Take one or two others along with you.” We would call these “facilitators” — people who can “translate” what each says into terms the other might understand.
If that doesn’t work — and only if that doesn’t work — “refer it to the church.” Let someone with the authority to do so tell you how to remain in communion with each other and the Church. The time-honored principle is: “In what is necessary, unity. In what allows for differences of opinion, freedom. In everything, charity.”
Jesus, tells us to take the disagreement even higher: “If two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven.” When Christians pray together instead of arguing, Jesus says, “There am I in their midst.”
If we just followed the procedure Jesus lays down here, most of the divisions in parishes, dioceses and the Church would never get started. Before we accuse another, what if we first tried sitting together after Communion in the “peace and unity” of the Spirit, conscious of Christ abiding in us both?
Only one thing
That is basically what Jesus told Martha to do when she complained about her sister Mary: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. But there is need of only one thing.” Mary was “sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to what he was saying.” If we did more of that we would not have so much to fight about.
In Romans 13:8-10 Paul said, “Any commandment there is can be summed up in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’... Love is the fulfillment of the law.” If our concern about other rules causes us to break that one, something is wrong with our priorities. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Listen for it at Eucharist.
Does Eucharist fill me with desire to go out and renew the face of the earth?
Listen for the longings expressed in Eucharist. Make them your own.