Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, a favorite of liturgists, and one we have met several times before. What different light might it offer us today as we pray?
The psalm today serves as a bridge between powerful readings about neighborly love and fraternal correction. These readings tell us to listen for God’s heartbeat in our world and to enter its rhythm.
They also tell us to love our neighbor enough that, if she or he is out of synch with God’s rhythm, we help align them by our counsel and example.
Have you ever tried to do that? It’s really tough!
First of all, we have to be so vigilant about the purity of our own intentions. We can’t instruct our friends in righteousness out of our own confusion. So often, our desire for others to “improve” grows out of our opinionated self-interest. You might remember what Jesus said about extracting the plank from our own eye before removing the splinter from our neighbor’s!
Next we really have to love our sister or brother and sincerely want their good. We have to forgive them any hurt they have caused us. We have to be bigger than most of us, speaking for myself, are inclined to be.
As the psalm tells us, we can’t have hard hearts. As we approach our sister or brother, our hearts must be softened by listening, patience, understanding, humility and hope. We have to be sure the “voice” we’re sharing comes from God not self.
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.
And the flip of all this, of course, is that when we are the one out of rhythm, we receive loving correction in the same spirit of openness.
Lots of Grace is needed on both sides of this dance! May we learn and receive it!
Poetry: The Gift by Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice. I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he’d removed the iron sliver I thought I’d die from. I can’t remember the tale, but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands, two measures of tenderness he laid against my face, the flames of discipline he raised above my head. Had you entered that afternoon you would have thought you saw a man planting something in a boy’s palm, a silver tear, a tiny flame. Had you followed that boy you would have arrived here, where I bend over my wife’s right hand. Look how I shave her thumbnail down so carefully she feels no pain. Watch as I lift the splinter out. I was seven when my father took my hand like this, and I did not hold that shard between my fingers and think, Metal that will bury me, christen it Little Assassin, Ore Going Deep for My Heart. And I did not lift up my wound and cry, Death visited here! I did what a child does when he’s given something to keep. I kissed my father.
Music: Let Me Hear Your Voice – Francesca LaRose