June 15, 2021
by George Butterfield
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 366

2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Psalm 146:2, 5-6ab, 6c- 7, 8-9a
Matthew 5:43-48

Praying Ordinary Time

Prayers for Fathers and Husbands

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Beginning Again: Talking with God

When my children were teenagers, I used to send them each year on a mission trip to Mexico. A group from the church took all of the supplies necessary to build a house for a family that did not have one. Each year my children came back changed. The people there are so poor. They have nothing. Why, then, are they so happy? We have everything and we aren’t filled with joy like they are. They concluded that those poor people in that town had something they didn’t have and they wanted it. They also concluded that, although the people lived lives of profound poverty, they were some of the most generous people they had ever known.

St. Paul discovered the same thing with the churches he founded. There was a great famine in Judea and he set out to raise money to help them out. He had established a number of churches in Macedonia, so he began there. Those churches were like the folks in Mexico. They were poor. However, they had something that caused them to give even beyond their means to assist their brothers and sisters in Judea. They had joy in abundance. Although giving like they did would amount to a “severe test of affliction,” they gave themselves to the Lord and his ministers and gave beyond St. Paul’s expectations. And they didn’t give because they were commanded to do so. Their response was spontaneous.

He tells us about them in his second letter to the Corinthians where he is encouraging them to be like the Macedonians. The Corinthians excel in everything: respect, faith, discourse, knowledge, and earnestness. St. Paul expresses his love for them and asks them to excel in the gracious act of making a contribution for Judea. Again, he doesn’t make any demands on them. He presents this as a test of the genuineness of their love. Do what you can, he says, but remember the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ who, although rich, became poor, so that by his poverty the Corinthians might become rich. St. Paul’s challenge is to be like the Macedonians but, on a deeper level, it is to be like Jesus. Sacrifice didn’t begin with us. We have the Lord Jesus as our example.

The psalmist declares that he will praise the Lord, that his hope is in God. Why? The Lord made everything, keeps faith, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets captives free, gives sight to the blind, raises up those who are bowed down, loves the just, and protects strangers. The Gospel verse before the Gospel quotes Jesus who said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” The psalmist tells us how much God loves us. Jesus tells us to be like that. The Macedonians had gotten the message.

Jesus assures us that this love of God is not just for those who love us but even for our enemies. We are to love them even as God does. God doesn’t get up in the morning and decide that he will let the sun come out for Joe but not Sally. He doesn’t cut the rain off at the end of my neighbor’s property because he is just and I am unjust. No, he pours out his gifts on all, even those who hate him. Jesus says that the most notorious sinners act like that. God does not and he challenges us to be like God - praying for those who persecute us, greeting those who hate us, and treating people right, no matter how they treat us. This, he says, is to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Why are they so happy, my children asked? There is a joy that fills our lives whether we have a lot or a little. For believers, it is the Spirit of a God who humbled himself, didn’t cling to his lofty position and privilege, and became poor for our sakes.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

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