Sunday Scriptures

We Must Do and Live As Jesus Did

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

“DO NOTHING out of selfishness or vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves….”   Phil 2: 4-5

These reflections are experienced and written by me several weeks ahead of the weekends you may read them. While hoping to reflect forward, I am also praying with the readings of September Sundays. Already their Scripture themes preview October’s readings. They are reminding us of the wideness, the broadness, the ongoing generosity of God’s mercy.

We are shown with vivid imagery that God’s thoughts and ways are not as ours are – they are not limited, they are not from a condescending spirit, and they are not distributed according to favoritism. This is not easy for our heads and hearts to comprehend and seems so often to be placed on life’s “back burners” until we find ourselves crying out: “the Lord’s ways are not fair!,” when we could and might be proclaiming again, “Your ways make known to me … teach me … guide me … show me your path.”

Challenging Legacy

Jesus’ words, spirit, love and strong voice for justice and mercy have left us a legacy which will long challenge who we are and who we are called to be, and hopefully, who we seek to become as His followers and disciples.

Like the meaning of mercy, the word “disciple,” has taken on a wider, broader, expanded meaning and challenge in our lives as Catholic Christians. Once upon a time we attributed that call to the Apostles, to Church leaders and teachers, to missionaries and saints, but not to each and every one of us.

Parishes throughout our country and diocese have made efforts to embrace this wider call. “Disciples in Mission,” “Forming Intentional Disciples” and “Living as Missionary Disciples” (our current catechetical year theme), are examples of the call to broaden our horizons regarding our responsibility for the Gospel, personally and as members of a community of faith and of a world community.

This Sunday’s first reading from Ezekiel is part of a longer section which looks at the question of our personal and communal responsibility for sin. The behavior of one person impacts all, and the responsibility of believers is to bring our behaviors to those which resemble the mind, heart and will of God. Israel’s self-understanding was intimately wedded to membership within the community.

Changing Our Mindsets

We have a great challenge here because this lens of responsibility is so often foreign to our self-preserving and individualistic mindsets. Ezekiel holds a generous hope, inviting us to change that course by changing our minds, hearts and wills, and returning to the God of mercy and promise.

“Simple, but not easy,” and never without daily opportunities to beg for the grace to keep eyes, hearts, ears and minds open. How often as we live our every day lives do we remember that we are disciples of Jesus Christ and of the Gospel?

The second reading from Philippians, a most amazing and remarkable monument of our faith, tells of God’s concern that we not be alone or abandoned, without companionship in this effort. This hymn to our Savior comforts us with the One, Who became our “brother” and is always with us. Jesus assumed the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh unto death. He is the One who shows us the how, the why and the way. This is not only a Scripture for Lent, Holy Week and Good Friday, but an instruction to assume the mind and attitude of Jesus: self-emptying, compassionate, merciful, as servant to all and to God’s glory. It speaks of God’s incomprehensible love for us – so great as to become Emmanuel, God-with-us, one of us, our Brother, our Teacher, our Way.

Jesus shows us a way of a non-subordination of one over another, of becoming one human nature caring for each other, sacrificing (leaving behind) what was, so as to care for and nurture what is. It’s God’s dream that our love be faithful and fruitful. It is God’s will that we live in harmony, interdependence and the most reverent and even, self-emptying care for each other and for all others.

Over the next few weeks our Scriptures and liturgy note the fast-moving momentum and intensity of Jesus’ preaching. He knows His time is fast approaching. He must strengthen His disciples for the task. Matthew insists that our actions speak louder than our words. God’s plan becomes our mandate and our faithfulness to it requires far more than a nod of our heads or our hearts. We must do and live as Jesus did.

Beyond Comfort and Safety

As disciples breaking open the Word together in this time of history we receive a message and challenge which is both universal and unique for each of us. We live in communities and a country of both extremes and differences which could lead to resistances that make us not want to delve into the Word. The greatest witness to Christ is a well-lived life. It creates a wider, broader, generous responsibility to His teaching. It leads to an acceptance of the call to a discipleship which goes beyond our little corners of comfort and safety. Often it leads to the cross.

Our world so often says otherwise, and we, at times, silently shrug our shoulders and close our ears and hearts to the truth of the lesson that Jesus, our Teacher, came to witness. If our actions do not match the words of Jesus and the Gospel, those words in us become meaningless and hypocritical. Let us pray that we embrace “intentional” and “missionary” more each day and let us be more aware that our God became one of us and remains on our journey with us. Yes, God is speaking to us.

Readings for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 18: 25-28

Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Philippians 2: 1-11 or

Philippians 2: 1-5

Matthew 21: 28-32

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.