August 20, 2019
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 420

Judges 6:11-24a
Psalms 85:9, 11-12, 13-14
Matthew 19:23-30

Praying Ordinary Time

An invitation to make the
Online Retreat

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

This reflection will be coming soon. Here is a reflection on these readings by Mike Cherney, from 2007.

Today’s readings express God’s ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible. They bring us to the conclusion that it is not stature or wealth that brings ultimate success.

I am left with some discomfort and challenge from the readings. They lead me to the conclusion that there is no enduring accomplishment without God. On one level I like these thoughts and on another they seem to undermine my human spirit. I am a strong willed person. I believe I can accomplish so much when I put my mind to it. This leaves me with difficulties when I am called to admit everything is a gift from God.

It brings up an internal struggle that has plagued me for years. What do I do and what does God do? How much of my success can I claim as my own and how much do I need to admit is a gift? Having grown up in the United States in the 1960’s, I came to believe it was our duty to make God’s work our own. What we do is for the greater glory of God. We lived through a period of great change in society and the church. We questioned authority and started to take a greater responsibility for our world. I grew up believing we were co-creators.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes at Creighton. I admit that I do not want my students coming to class thinking everything is a gift. I want them to work hard. I want them to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the semester.

Congruent with the Gospel, I have little difficulty in admitting financial wealth is neither the road to happiness nor to the good life. In line with the first reading I have no doubt that with God’s assistance we can do more than we ever imagined. But my reading of today’s scriptures takes me out of where I am comfortable. It asks me if I am sometimes casting myself in the role of God. (I find that sometimes I am.) It asks me to accept everything as a gift. This is hard. I find that I am concerned with earning spiritual wealth. My father tried to do it his way through daily Mass and rosaries. I try to do it my own way. In both cases, I find us (my father and myself) to be at odds with the Gospel which tells us salvation is a gift. I feel both of us to be called not to change our actions, but rather to change our motivations. This is a much harder task.

My prayer today is to let the Lord into my heart. I pray for an openness to accept his gifts. I pray for a good and meaningful semester for both myself and my students.


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