Reflection for Wednesday, November 21, 2007: Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (33rd week in Ordinary Time).
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Two trains of thought chugged out of my mental station when I began reflecting on the Scripture that the Church provides for our banquet of the word today. The first concerns the Church's constant reverence for martyrs, those who have died in witness to God's Reign and the central mystery of the Resurrection. In the month of November each year the Church calls us to attend to the fact that all of us will die and we need to think about death as the goal that shapes our lives and choices every day. If I believe in the Resurrection and the ultimate Reign of God (and act accordingly) then I do not need to fear death or anything short of death. Every event, every choice, becomes an opportunity to live into the freedom of belonging entirely to God who loves us utterly and desires our joy. Nothing conveys this reality more clearly than the death of a martyr. It is perhaps helpful for us to note that during the Twentieth Century there were more martyrs in the Church than in any era since the first three centuries. Perhaps we need that witness of faith more than other generations have. In any case the story of the seven Maccabean brothers and their very strong mother certainly reflects faith in God's Reign.| | But today's Gospel text casts the first reading into a slightly different context and my second train of thought went down that track. Luke presents us with a very challenging parable from Jesus about the rich noble who goes away to become the King of the larger territory. He gives his servants sums of his resources (gifts) and tells them to invest it for a profit. Meanwhile his neighbors have gone about petitioning that he NOT be made king -- they "despise him" the text says. So Luke's Jesus presents us with a very strong leader who has serious enemies and whose servants are commanded to work to enlarge their gifts (with a whiff of threat?) while he is "away." The clue to the text is in the story setup at the beginning where Luke tells us that they are near Jerusalem where there is a strong belief in the coming of the Reign of God. Jesus is then giving us a Kingdom message. Our King (God) is very strong and has serious enemies (start with Antiochus the Greek who slaughtered Mrs. Maccabee and her seven sons, and come right down to the present) but note that the leader isn't going to have a lot of patience with enemies. When the time comes for reckoning he will "slay them." (So much for "good and gentle Jesus" images), and he will call to account his servants for the gifts he has given them. One might say that the model servant (who made 100% return) is one like the Maccabee boys ready to do always and only God's Will -- even to death.| So, this is where the two trains come together on one track -- the Reign of God is demanding. It demands everything that we are. But it is worth everything.|This is a most uncomfortable meditation for those who want to cling to an image of God that is "soft" or "tolerant" of great evil. "God will forgive anything" I hear my young adult students say on a regular basis. . . but here is Jesus suggesting a difficult paradox in the "character" of God. If we imagine that God's gifts to his servants are the various forms of power to disclose his reign on earth as it is in heaven, (healing, revealing, reconciling) the message is that if you don't use and enlarge the gift you lose it! It's a demanding call.|Furthermore the King will do away with his enemies when the Kingdom comes to fullness. I certainly would rather be a servant than an enemy on that day -- but as I meditate on these texts I have more than a small jolt out of any comfortable capitalistic pursuits I might be about. I think my most focused prayer today will be to ask for the grace to say in truth: "When your glory appears, my joy will be full!" Ps 17- response.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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