Sunday Scriptures

It’s Time to Clothe Ourselves in Love

by Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J.

“BEHOLD OUR God, to Whom we looked to save us!” (Isaiah 10) “Creator God, enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.” (Ephesians 1: 17-18)

At every Mass celebrated today throughout the world – in hundreds of tongues and dialects, in the Vatican, in cathedrals, parishes, mud chapels, campuses, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, cruise ships and perhaps in shelters – the following prayer begins the Eucharist: “Father, the hand of Your loving kindness powerfully yet gently guides all the moments of our day. Go before us in our pilgrimage of life, anticipate our needs and prevent our falling. Send Your spirit to unite us in faith, that sharing in Your service, we may rejoice in Your presence.”

To this, we – the young and old, rich and poor, strong and weak, blessed or grieving – will respond: “Amen.” We say it often and almost without thinking. We might forget its meaning: “Yes, I believe!”

Taking Responsibility

As mentioned earlier, these reflections are prepared a few weeks in advance. This one began while violent threats were hurled back and forth here and on the other side of our earth home. Millions in our common family still wander – dying, huddling, starving – as refugees desperate and away from their homeland. Thousands of other young people and their families in this country are threatened with shattering dreams and possible banishment from the only home they know. These results are decisions of people called to take care of each other.

Natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes and death-dealing destruction have decimated lives, homes, communities, cities and hopes. We rush to bring relief and yet, many of us still deny any responsibility. We refuse to see that our choices and denials contribute to these death blows to our only earthly home. Is this the home we leave for those who follow us? This week’s readings may not comfort us today as at other times. We hear of tears being wiped away, rich feasts and fine drinks, pastures ripe and green, calm and restful waters, invitations to “whomever” and provisions of “whatever” is needed.

Perhaps while they’re proclaimed, we may again picture a loving, providing God grabbing us by our feet and turning us “upside down,” so that we who are “light headed” or afraid of the truth, might feel new life blood surging in our hearts and heads. We might see the truth of our responsibility in this divinely created human family. We’re asked to consider the excuses we offer for not owning the “response-ability” of baptism’s mandate. Love with all your heart, soul, mind and being. This golden rule – the standard of major religions, human service organization – goes all the way back to the Genesis cop-out of “Am I my brother’s (sister’s) keeper?”

Banquet of Change

Today’s readings invite us to delectable feasts, tearless comfort, happiness, renewal and the coming and company of our King, Shepherd and Lord. We are reminded that we’re not either/or in these scenes. Isaiah foretells a banquet of change, covenant and reconciling love. God keeps a promise in a ritual where those who are faithful will be rewarded, those who have longed for God will see sorrow changed into joy and death into life. This is comfort for the “comfortable,” those who seem satisfied and live in relative peace. Those on the other side of that peace – or provision, safety or community – may cry out: “When?” and “How long, O Lord?”

In his epistle, Paul tells of his experiences with polar opposite conditions in life and gives us a response that has endured through the ages, one which is easier or more difficult to believe or hear depending on our life situations: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”

We are vividly reminded these past weeks and many months that each and every one of us can be one crisis, tragedy, poor choice or “natural” disaster away from having our lives literally “turned upside down.”

Matthew puts a parable on Jesus’ lips that captures the attention and anger of all who gathered – the leaders, the elders, the observant and faithful people of Jerusalem – and maybe even us this week. Jesus turns our sense of entitlement, exclusivity and rigid requirements for inclusion “upside down.” The Kingdom of God is a likened to a great banquet and the King (God) invites everyone! You, me, everyone! All are invited and welcome at the table together, the first to accept the invite and everyone after that. What’s not always spelled out – and is, at times, brushed aside as odd – is the fact that not all get to stay.

Proper Attire

Here the welcome is forfeited by a lack of proper dress (or response-ability). God knows our hearts and, often in Scripture, reminds us how to dress for each other. Paul and Peter learned through their own arrogance, sense of entitlement, mistakes and sins and they pass their learning onto us. Peter, in his epistle, reminds us that for a place in the kingdom we need “clothe ourselves in humility,” that is, the wedding garment.

Paul uses softer, but equally challenging words in Colossians: “Clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen ones, with heartfelt compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience, in humility and forgiveness. Over all these, and to hold them together, put on the love.” This is the garment we need model in this life and wear to the table of eternal life. We are our “brother’s (sister’s) keeper.”

I wonder and hope that if, like our childhood security blankets, we wore these same clothes every day, we might turn our world and our care for each other “right side up”? We might recognize each other as brother and sister here and at that eternal banquet.

Readings for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 25: 6-10a

Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20

Matthew 22: 1-14 or

Matthew 22: 1-10

Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.

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