September 23, 2020
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Lectionary: 451

Galatians 2:19-20
Psalm 127:1-5
Matthew 16:24-27

Praying Ordinary Time

Pope Francis on his visit to the grave of Padre Pio on his 50th anniversary

Rediscovering Corporal Works of Mercy

Today’s readings remind us that we are hopelessly lost in the darkness without light that comes only from God.

The first reading from Proverbs reflects wisdom about our own nature.  If we are honest, we know that we are prone to wander off the path of light.  The writer asks for God’s help in defending us from influences that might enhance that tendency.  Lying and falsehood abound in this world, as it is the work of our enemy.  Yet our own commitment to truth, along with all our learning, will be insufficient to protect us from these influences; God alone is able to keep our hearts. 

Wisdom finds a middle path between the extremes of riches and poverty, both of which signal dangers coming from our desires.  Wealth and poverty are not as dissimilar as they might seem.  Poverty can be thrust upon us against our will -- but so can riches!  Poverty entails deprivation of material goods – but riches can deprive us of other goods such as gratitude that we need to live fully and happily.  Both can make us very uncomfortable, either worrying how to get what we need or how to keep what we have and get still more.  The old saying that “it takes a steady hand to hold a full cup” comes to mind.  We like to think that we can handle the test of riches, or at least we would like to try! Most of us have more than we need, but do we have steady hands?   

Today’s psalm reflects the imagery of the path of light, and it reiterates our need for God to shine a light on our path so that we can find our way.  Here, again, we see a prayer to remove falsehood from us; known and unknown faults cloud our thinking and cause us to live in ways that do not reflect the deeper reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.  These faulty circuits disrupt our lives and our relationships with others, including our relationship with God.  Bad thinking leads to bad behaving.  We need the word to find out those faults and restore functionality. 

Today’s gospel reflects light and word in action.  Our Lord equips the disciples for ministry, summoning, empowering, and sending them.  Resilience is the expected response to opposition:  shake the dust off your feet and move on.  And one more thing: God will provide what you need as you go.  

This passage causes me to wonder how I would have reacted to this charge.  I think I get the summoning, empowering, and sending part – maybe even the resilience part!  But to go out unprepared?  Yikes! I recently had a dream in which I was traveling in unfamiliar surroundings.  I felt no wallet in my pocket, which made me very uncomfortable.  Soon my wallet was restored and I felt confident again.  Is this a sign of a faulty circuit?  Tools – like money -- are great to have.  But are we trusting only in what we have now to carry out our mission?  Does what we have (or our lack thereof) influence us more than our understanding of the One who summons, empowers, and sends?  Could we undertake a bold adventure like these disciples? 

Lord, give us your light.  Drive away darkness.  Give us wisdom to seek forgiveness and healing from you for our faults, known and unknown.  Remove falsehood from around and within us. And help us to love and trust you in all things, even when it is most uncomfortable.  Amen.

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