July 1, 2018
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Mission and Ministry Division
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 98

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalms 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43 OR 5:21-24, 35B-43

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

In the midst of the heat and damp of midsummer, here in the midwest of North America, and as we approach the annual observance of the Founding of the United States of America as a Nation, I find it exceedingly comforting that we are reminded that our God is a God of life, not death.  If any single “message” comes through the readings for this Sunday it is that we must believe that God creates all life and desires the life of the created order.  Further, God values the life and full dignity of each and every human person with infinite tenderness and passionate insistence.

I am reminded of an experience I had many years ago when I was teaching a group of young women in the full throes of their early adolescence.  These sixteen-year-olds were full of exuberance, questions, and confusions as they darted from one taste of life to another.  I was asked to give a talk for the older students at a neighboring “private academy in the Episcopal Tradition,” defending the Catholic Church’s position supporting human life at every stage, as part of a speaker-series on “important political topics.”   At the end of my talk I could feel the wall of disagreement and annoyance in the assembly of some 200 high school juniors and seniors.  One young woman stood and told me that if she would get pregnant at this stage of her life she would be ruined.  She was aiming toward a long and illustrious career as a lawyer and a judge she proudly announced,  and wouldn’t it be better to rid herself (and her embarrassed family, as well) of the “inconvenience” of a child who might impede that opportunity for making a contribution of great worth to the human family.  “After all,” she asserted confidently,” this would not be a full human person, just a mass of tissue, albeit well organized tissue.”  (Yes, “albeit” was her very word of the day.)

I was both saddened by the argument she posed as well as amused by the confidence displayed in the well-organized grammar, but utterly flawed theological anthropology she espoused. I asked her if she wasn’t also making a good argument for ridding the world of teenage humans.  I suggested that she herself, might pose an inconvenience, in her own inept incompleteness, for her parents on any number of occasions.  Weren’t they justified in getting rid of her since she wasn’t a full-grown human person, but rather an impedance to their plans for success and contribution to the human race?  She protested, and rightly, that such an act on anyone’s part would be murder.  I agreed with her on the point about murder, and suggested that she might reconsider her thoughts about pre-born life as a “mass of tissue.” Considering that the little human being asking to be born - that she was positing as a possibility - would not be far removed from her own very real requests to her parents to love her and sustain her into the fullness of her life even when she was behaving most inconveniently.

The first reading today insists that humans are made imperishable for God.  We enter death because of sin – and to bring about the death of others engages in sin.  The Gospel for today discloses Jesus, at the height of his missionary work, raising the dead and healing the sick.  The reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians asserts that humans have been given the gifts we need to care for and supply for one another’s needs as well as our own.  Our God lavishly pours out the bounty of creation and we must be willing to share that bounty so that all may have life to the full.  Taken together, this rich bounty at the table of the word would be enough to feast on throughout the whole summer, even in the face of all the dilemmas of sin and selfishness that seem to surround us and sap our energies.  If we fail to love and respect our lives, the lives of the littlest and most vulnerable in the wombs of their mothers or in the arms of their fathers, in hospital beds, detention centers or nursing homes; if we neglect the dignity of those who have been deprived of their share of the bounty of the harvest by the devastation of wars, the molestation of gangs, government tariffs, or the pure greed of land and water rights locked away for the wealthy and politically powerful, we are engaging in “the dirty work of death,” as Pope Francis challenges us. 

Today is a good day to express thanks, to enjoy the full gift of eucharistic life – that is a life of thanksgiving and sharing with others - so that they also might have life.  Only when each of us is grateful for our own lives can we fully appreciate the wonders of God’s gift of life to us and to our beautiful, if suffering, world as we enter the second half of this swiftly moving year.  God’s grace of gratitude will spill out and overflow with life and healing for others if we but open our hearts to that gift.  No greater hope can the Church have for us than to challenge us to “lift up our hearts” as we celebrate God’s totally generous self-donation. 

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