Reflection for Monday, August 30, 2004: 22nd week in Ordinary Time.

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Burke-Sullivan, Eileen
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Today's readings in the liturgy of Ordinary Time present an interesting challenge especially to those who are "professional" about religion, whether ordained or lay. The demands of religion require us to learn much about faith, much about the tradition and yet, when we get down to it people are most often touched, at least initially, not by the logic of doctrine (or liturgy or stages of spirituality or ethics) but by the experience of God's self as it is mediated through the profound compassion of a genuine follower of Jesus.|Several years ago, while I was serving as a lay ecclesial minister in a parish, I had a meeting with a small group of deeply religious lay people intent on imposing their own personal devotion on the rest of the parish at the Sunday liturgy. In the course of the meeting I was called any number of names and treated with a significant lack of respect, all in the name of God's mercy! When we had negotiated a compromise that would respect the Church's liturgy, the parish's needs and their personal devotional needs they left with a triumphant smugness that I found both sad and amusing. As I turned to the Lord in prayer, feeling somewhat battered, the text from Luke's Gospel that is cited today gave me great consolation _ at least no one wanted to stone me or throw me off a cliff as they did the Lord in their righteousness! But I was struck by the importance of the media becoming more fully integrated by the message. How can we communicate the incredible mercy and love of God except by the tender compassion with which we treat our fellow travelers?|Many have been lost and continue to be lost by the harshness with which the "law of the Lord" is interpreted or applied. We Americans are somewhat antinomian in any case and pressing the law of God upon people as if it were an external regulation of behavior without relational context is one of the greatest harms that we do in attempting to proclaim the Gospel. |On another occasion in the same parish a mother of a first communicant told me she was not interested in the Catholic faith for her son as much as she was interested in instilling the ethical code of the faith, which she found to be a good "control" on his conduct. I pointed out to her that the Christian ethic without the faith relationship that the law responds to, is ultimately meaningless. The "Law" is an expression of God's desire toward those who already know Divine compassion and want to respond so as to live within the delight of God's reign. Without the accountability of love the "law" becomes a form of imprisonment that most intelligent people eventually reject.|Christian religion is a virtue that rightly expresses a prior experience of God's mercy most often mediated through human compassion in the name and manner of Jesus Christ. When that compassion is lacking the god who emerges is often a monster that has no relationship to Yahweh except as an enemy. The God who gave the "law" is the God who gave us Jesus to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and healing to the broken-hearted. Jesus IS the "law" that brings life. Thus we can say with the Psalmist,"How I love your law! It is my meditation night and day." (Ps 119.97)
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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