Today is the memorial for Saint Scholastica, twin sister of St. Benedict and the first abbess of the Benedictine nuns. Like her brother, she dedicated her life to the service and praise of the Lord. In fact, she started her journey very early in her life before her brother embarked on a similar one. There is one story that I have heard a number of times about St. Scholastica and St. Benedict – it clearly gives witness to the power of prayer. Although the abbeys where they each resided were not far from each other, they would usually only see one another once a year. During one of these yearly visits, they had their usual deeply spiritual talks and when evening fell, St. Benedict stated he must depart. St. Scholastica entreated him to stay, but he insisted he had to leave. She quietly folded her hands in prayer (requesting that he would stay). Within minutes, a huge storm blew inand he was unable to leave. They continued their spirited conversation throughout the night. St. Benedict was said to be in awe of his sister’s prayers and their results. The readings for today also leave us in awe of the compassion and power of Jesus to love us.
The readings for today reflect the different “faces” of God – a stark contrast between Old Testament and New. In the beginning we are reminded of the consequences of not obeying God – His wrath was evident and without change. Our responsorial psalm reminds us that God is always our refuge -- a different perspective from that first reading. The gospel demonstrates the love of God and Jesus poured forth upon the people in compassion and caring action.
The first reading from Genesis is one we all remember from childhood,
not one that is easy to forget! Adam and Eve are called to task
because they have disobeyed. The temptation by Satan in the form
of the serpent is a clear image – deceit and treachery. Having
grown up knowing the New Testament through our various readings
and gospels, I remember thinking that this was a disconnect from
the kindness and compassion represented in those stories and actions.
The consequences of those actions were severe and unforgiving. There
were no “do-overs.” As a child, I viewed this as a very
stern parent who did not allow for many mistakes. Of course, throughout
the Old Testament, we see hundreds of mistakes made by humans and
only a few times when dire consequences were evident. Still, this
really got my attention as a child and the possibilities of bad
things happening from disobedience.
That brings us to our second reading focusing on God as our refuge – an image and concept that so many of us hold dear. How, indeed, would we negotiate this life without that belief? There is a beautiful song from John Foley one of the St. Louis Jesuits, “Only in God.” I used it frequently one year to remind me of God as my refuge and to get me through the ordeals of that time. I remember I had to travel to meet with a certain group of people two to three times a week. I was sure to have the CD in my car with that song, I would listen as I traveled and be comforted and fortified for whatever the interactions would hold. There were times that the song was not completed when I arrived in the parking lot, I would just sit and listen until it finished and then I knew I was ready for whatever. It truly fortified my very being and made it possible to get through some very tough moments. The refrain is below – you cannot listen to that song and sing the words without feeling as our responsorial psalm exclaims: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.”
The gospel completes our readings and affirms the safety and refuge in God and Jesus. Jesus is moved with pity and performs a miracle to feed the masses. How often, do we ask to be forgiven, for the compassion of Jesus to save us with the spiritual food as he saved the masses there? In one sense, that is what happens in every liturgy, the compassion of Jesus feeds us and when we receive His Body and Blood, we will not leave hungry. Our spirits are full, we are satisfied and fortified when we take this miracle into our bodies and open our hearts and souls to its true meaning. As the song says,
Just as our earthly parents love us and hold us to high standards and behavior codes, so does our Father in heaven, and the greatest joys and rewards await us for living accordingly.
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