by Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“COME INTO GOD’S presence in holy attire” (Psalm 96) … “remember that the Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but in power, in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 5b).
As we begin this day’s Eucharist praying to God to “remove the blindness that cannot know You and relieve the fear that would hide us from Your sight.”
A powerful indication that faith and spirituality are alive is found in the times when we “see” God’s movement in our lives as we notice the changes within ourselves, as we marvel at a healing or reconciliation we thought might never come. It is remembered when we experience a patience, forgiveness or mercy that we render to another or even to ourselves.
Sometimes these reminders that God is always with us can surprise us, bring a nod of thanks in our hearts and heads and at times, a smile in our eyes. Our personal histories contain the evolution that all of salvation history teaches us.
Today’s readings show glimpses of what we pray in the Psalm: “Give to the Lord, families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise, give to the Lord, the glory which belongs to God alone!”
Chosen and Called
In Isaiah, we and our ancestors are reminded that God takes us by the hand, opens doors before us, chooses and calls us over and over. The Lord speaks to Cyrus, a pagan king so as to favor him, honor him and remind all of us that God is One, that God is Lord of all and that God is wherever we are.
The ancients believed that different gods ruled different territories. It took a very long time before they grew in that awareness of the one God. We hear: “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God beside Me.”
Remove the Blinders
Although we’re not the ancients, there are times, even now, when we behave as though this were not the truth. There are times in my days and life that I need to recall that I am still a “work in progress.” If I remove the blinders in my heart, mind and soul, I will find the gods of fear, insecurity and longtime resentments that still cry out for my worship. These days, for sure, we need be wary of the gods who live in our fears and want us to cry out: “Where are You, God? … have You abandoned us?”
In the Gospel today, and in the weeks to come, Jesus is confronted by those who want to back Him into a corner. They want to trap Him and question His loyalty. They want Him to speak against the temporal, ruling authorities and gain a few enemies in the process. Do those hidden (but not unknown) gods within us tempt us to do the same? Imagine Jesus with a Caesar’s image coin in one hand and a mirror in the other holding it up to His interrogators and us so as to reflect back our true colors.
Does God and God’s ways have our allegiance, attempted paybacks for mercies lavished on us, and the divine image imprinted on our persons? That mirror held up to us can also give us a closer look at our attire: our proper garments as disciples. If we see “heartfelt kindness, gentleness, patience, humility and forgiveness” in our bearing, if we see ourselves clothed and covered in love, we will see and have the grace necessary to present the divine image to others. We may, again, “render to God that which is God’s.”
However, today, as we pray that our blindness and fears be removed, we find our world, near and far, filled with devastating images of loss, death, absolute fear and desperation.
So often I don’t have the ability to think about, watch or at times, imagine recovery from the natural disasters. I have even less an ability to imagine peaceful resolutions to our nation’s tensions, division, threats and violence. Mother Nature has been attacked by global warming. Our earth’s infrastructure is failing beneath the burdens we place upon it. Our brothers and sisters wander without a homeland and life’s basic needs. Power-hungry leaders hurl insults, threaten war and build weapons of mass destruction. Our world family is in peril. Our earth home is in peril. Each day brings fear and at times, a sense of paralysis for the spirit, energy or words to express or act against those fears.
I thank God that my life – and yours, I suspect – also give us images of men, women and children reaching out, digging out, carrying the hurting, providing drink to those thirsty and food to those hungry, opening the doors of homes and hearts, clothing brothers and sisters with safety and tender touch.
Show Our True Colors
We see the sacrifices and daring, prayers and provisions, a unity and inclusion that defies a barrage of put-downs, insults, threats and exclusions which can become an everyday way of relating. When crises come, the human family joins hands in “response-ability” and shows our true colors.
Why do we need crises to remind us who we are? Jesus asks us: “Whose image do you bear? Whose image do you see in one another and in every other?”
May a new, energized “response- ability” give to God the glory that belongs to God alone. May God bless and help us. Let this be our prayer for each other this week. God be with us
Readings for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6
Psalm 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5b
Matthew 22: 15-21
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.