Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 9, 2012 - Year B
Recognizing God's Friends
My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory...Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?
Once upon a time a scribe excitedly told Jesus he would follow him wherever he went. Jesus responded with a blunt warning, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head. He began is life among us with no permanent address, spending his first earthly hours asleep in a cow's trough. And in death he took up temporary residence for three days in a borrowed tomb.
In his stories Jesus presents the kingdom as a banquet open to all. He tells us to bring to his feast of love the poor and maimed and blind and lame. And we must be diligent and deliberate about filling up his banquet house until it is full. We are to go even into the 'highways' and 'hedges,' engaging people everywhere to consider the riches of faith, hope, and love. St. Paul understood these riches in a deeply prayerful way. Seeking to grasp the meaning of the Incarnation Paul proclaimed how Christ, who though he was rich, became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.
The wealth of our salvation is not, however, in silver and gold or in stock holdings. You see, my friend, the Lord of glory emptied himself. This rich truth means that the Son of God became a man so that we could become the sons and daughters of God. For our sake he did this. He did this not because we could give him anything but because he desired to restore to us the fulness of the breath of life. He breathed into us the breath of life so that we could be truly alive.
The world has standards by which it measures success. By those standards of success many fall short. These human measurements exclude and show partiality. But God does not measure according to the outward appearance. He is not impressed by these things. Not many of us are wise or powerful or of the right DNA according to worldly standards. Some how God delights in showing his strength in the weak in this world to remind the strong what true strength is; he invites those who are lowly and despised in the world and sets them in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
The Church, the body of Christ, is comprised of every tribe and nation and language under heaven. Everyone in God's family is a trophy of grace. The great family of God is made up God's friends. Upon this friendship he lavishes his love and he tells us again and again of his love and shows us his mercy in forgiving us our sins - again, and again, and again. If there is any virtue, if there is any praise, if there is any goodness, it is that God extends his friendship to whosoever will.
When the folks in today's Gospel brought their friend to Jesus they asked for a miracle. He could not speak nor could he hear. They begged the Lord if he might lay his hand upon their friend. And before they left this man with these impediments of speaking and hearing could now function in both ways.
Do we sometimes need Jesus to touch our ears so we will hear him better? Should we invite Jesus to touch our tongues so that we will speak of him more often and with less fear? He wants to set our lives free so that we will be his witnesses. He sends us into all the world. And into all the world we are to take his friendship.
Are you afraid to share God's salvation? Then hear the excitement of the first reading. Isaiah, the prophet, shouts, "Be strong and fear not!" God comes to save and to restore. He will open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like the deer and the tongue of the mute will sing. Even streams will burst forth in the desert. What is the prophet telling us? He is describing a new day of evangelization and faith. It is appropriate to hear this reading within the context of the 'new pentecost' and 'springtime' of faith recent Pope's have preached and written about.
All of us are called to help bring a new springtime of faith. May it begin in our hearts and in our homes. May it burst forth everywhere that God's love is absent, his voice not heard, where his light is dim, and his healing power for soul and body is not known.
God has friends who still do not know of his love for them. Let us be a friend, make a friend, and then bring our friend to Christ. May the Holy Spirit help us and lead us to do the will of God. May he give us a burden for those who still do not know him and use us to recognize those who he is calling to be rich in faith. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com