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May 15, 2018

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Father David's Reflection for Wednesday of Week Eighteen (Ordinary Time)

The Responsorial (Psalm 106) asks: “Lord, remember us.” But we also have to remember him, trusting in his

“steadfast love and fidelity.”

 

Numbers 13:1 to 14:35 warns us against using discouragement as an excuse not to minister. If we “reconnoiter the land” (the modern word for this is a “feasibility study”), no matter how “ripe the fields are for harvesting,”[1] we will also see that “the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large.” The cultural “establishment,” the people who follow and promote ideas and values contrary to the Gospel, are so implanted, and so numerous, that there seems to be no hope of bringing about conversion and change. Imagine what it would take to reconvert Europe to the faith; to bring inactive American Catholics back to Mass; to expose the shallowness of agnosticism and relativism in education; to dethrone the idols of affluence and power in business; to restore honesty and principled service in government; to break the hold of legalism, clericalism and triumphalism in the Church; to develop open, collaborative, discerning leadership in the hierarchy, clergy and laity. Don’t we feel like saying with the Israelites, “"We are not able to go up against these people; they are too strong!”

 

The Israelites’ defeatism became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because they refused to rely on God’s power, they were left without motivation or power to overcome their enemies. This delayed their entrance into the Promised Land for a generation. And if we hold back from ministry on the excuse that “it’s useless,” we just hold back the eventual establishment of the Kingdom. He will triumph, but not in our day.

 

Matthew 15: 21-28 teaches us not to write off anyone as immune to our ministry. Jesus was sent specifically to the Jews, but when a non-Jewish woman asked him to cure her daughter, he first elicited from her an admission that the Jews were a chosen people, and then praised her for her “great faith.” He did not ask her to abandon her Canaanite culture and become a Jew; he just affirmed the faith she had and let her grow at her pace. All God asks is forward motion.

 

We may think we are only sent to minister to Catholics, or at most to other Christians. Not true. We declare in Eucharistic Prayer III: “Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise.... From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.” Jesus sent us to “make disciples of all nations.” If we can share any truth at all with anyone, that is a start. But our first step should be to recognize their faith, as Jesus recognized the Canaanite’s and ask about their experience of God. We presume God’s action in everyone and build on it. Our ministry is universal love. grounded in universal respect[2]

 

Initiative: Be a priest. Share with everybody as much truth as you can.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] John 4:35.

 

[2] Matthew 28:19.

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