Today’s readings are from Proverbs 30:5-9, Psalms 119:29,72,89,101,104,163, and Luke 9:1-6. Proverbs tell us that “every word of God is tested,” and we should “add nothing to his words.” In addition, there is a plea to put “falsehood and lying far from me.” The refrain of the Responsorial Psalm promises “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet.” In Luke, Jesus gives the twelve apostles “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases” and sends “them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
As I reflect on these passages, I am reminded of an event in my life that occurred last spring. I was driving to work one morning and was stopped at a stop light. All of a sudden, there was a woman knocking on the passenger window. I rolled the window down a crack, and she put her arm through the window to shake my hand and thanked me for giving her dignity by opening my window. She told me that she was a victim of domestic violence and needed a ride the ten blocks to Creighton’s teaching hospital. Since I am on the board of the local domestic violence coordinating council, and since that very day was the annual awards ceremony for that organization, I let the woman in my car. On the way to the hospital, she told me about the abusive man from whom she was escaping, and she said that she wanted to leave town but did not have the $19 needed to purchase a bus ticket. I gave her the money, and as soon as I did, she asked me to stop the car. She said that she did not need to go to the hospital. She departed my car and thanked me. When I arrived on campus, I mentioned my experience to several people, and a few of them said that they knew her and had had similar experience with her. They laughed at me and told me that I had been “taken” by the woman. I have to admit that I did feel “taken” by her, for she had been dishonest with me and had misrepresented people who might really need help. On the other hand, I also recognized that she might have reasons for the way she was obtaining money, and she might have needs for that money that I did not understand.
Has this woman followed the “tested words” of the Lord? Should she be punished? Should she be forgiven? Is it possible that what on the surface appears to be misbehavior is actually an attempt at survival? As I read today’s scripture, I firmly believe that in the way of the Lord’s commands, but I also recognize that what I see in others is only the behavior and not necessarily the intention. Perhaps we can use today’s Responsorial Psalm’s refrain as a pray for ourselves and for those who do not seem to follow the words of the Lord. “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet. Help me to follow your word, to be a model for others, and to endeavor to understand those for whom your word is not a lamp for their feet. Amen.”
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