A Reflection by Fr. Alex Cymerman, OFM Conv.

(Sunday Mass Readings: 1 Kings 19:16-21; Psalm 16; Gal 5:1;13-18; Luke 9:51-62)

We have ended another Liturgical season. We celebrated feasts and mysteries which changed the meaning of our life and world.  These are neither phony fairy tales, nor magic moments meant to offer brief relief from the humdrum of our ordinary times.

Holy Week and Easter reminded us how our Savior entered His own creation to suffer and die in reparation for the misbehavior of God’s people.  He did not come to curse and punish, but to save and revive.  Jesus’ Resurrection confirmed His role as Savior, and His Ascension into Heaven was a sign of our very own rising over and above our weakness and failures.  At Pentecost and the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we celebrated the gift of the God-Spirit who enters us who are baptized into the Family of God our Father, and to the life and mission of Jesus, our Brother and Savior.  The Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord reminded us that Jesus continues to live with us and within us.  He is real, not just a memory.  The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus this past Friday reminded us that love, symbolized by the human heart, motivated our loving God to redeem His people, and of Jesus’ legacy: “Love one another as I have loved you.”   On Saturday, the Gospel on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary recalled Mary and Joseph’s relief in finding Jesus in the Temple, and how “she kept all these things in her heart.”

We also celebrated the Birth of John the Baptist.  He was destined “to go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” The Baptist’s destiny is the mission statement of the Church and each of its members. In the coming days, the Gospel for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul will recall St. Peter’s profession of faith: ”You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” It may remind us of the story where some of Jesus’ disciples left Him because following Jesus is hard.  When Jesus asked Peter if he would also leave, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

The Feasts and Gospels might be our Annual Retreat, helping us remember, reflect, and confirm our identity as baptized Christian people.  Our liturgists designed the schedule of liturgical feasts to remind those who were baptized at Easter what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It is also an effective way of confirming the confirmed – that is – us, the lifers, who also need to be reminded.   Following Jesus is hard.  We need God’s grace and the support of our brothers and sisters in the faith to “keep the faith,” and to spread it.

So, what now!  We return to “Ordinary Time.”  “Ordinary” is not to be distinguished from “extraordinary,” like in yawntime:  nothing special going on!   No! No!  The Liturgical Calendar “Ordinary Time,” uses ordinal numbers to identify the weeks, e.g. first, second, or thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.”   There is nothing “ordinary” about time spent with God!

Now that we have celebrated what God has done for us, it’s time for us to do something for God.  The Mass texts for this, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, provide inspiration.  In our first reading, from the Book of Kings, Elisha is unexpectedly called to succeed Elijah as God’s prophet.  He could not even say goodbye to his family.  God’s work was urgent.  He had to go – and go quickly!  In our Second Reading, St. Paul teaches the Galatians that God’s law is quite clear: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In a suggestion that might be relevant for us today, St. Paul warns his listeners: “If you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”  What a response to the oratory of mutual destruction that we hear today!  And, in the Gospel, Jesus, now “determined to journey to Jerusalem,” and his fate there, reminds His listeners that following Him requires immediacy, determination, and perseverance!

The Scripture Readings on these Sundays in Ordinary Time require more than a polite listening.  When we go to church, we expect to hear a sermon.  Listening is important, but let’s be serious.  How many sermons have YOU heard that changed your life?  Hearing is one thing.  More is needed.  Priests, ministers, and televangelists blast the “Good News” from pulpits, stages, and TV screens.  The Alleluia verse in today’s Mass is “Speak, Lord, YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.”  Are we?  Do you remember any details from the sermon you heard last Sunday??????  How much of that “Good News” is reflected in the 6:30 Evening News?

The teachings of Jesus Christ are not just words to be heard.  They are intended to change our vision of the world:  to see the world as God sees it; to see people as God sees people; to see the created world and all it offers as God sees it all.  God created the world – and us – with a Divine purpose.  Conversion is all about converting our ways and our goals to God’s ways and God’s goals.  It’s as simple – and as critical – as that.  That explains the urgency in the lives of Elisha and those people to whom Jesus said, in today’s Gospel, hey, we have to do this NOW!

St. John tells a beautiful story of Jesus healing a man born blind (Ch 9).  In that story, Jesus identifies Himself as the “Light of the World.”  Without light we see nothing.  When the power fails, we are completely lost, even with 20-20 vision.  A flashlight might help us find the fork which fell from the table, and we may find our way upstairs. But in darkness, there is no perception of distances or dangerous obstacles.  When the sun rises – or the power restored – we can see clearly.  Jesus IS the LIGHT OF THE WORLD.  Or, imagine driving into a city where there are no street signs or traffic signals. You can ride around in circles, but where are you going and what danger might lurk around the corner?  When we “see” with The Light of the World, our way is clear and obstacles avoided.  FOLLOWING Jesus means being “enlightened” by Him.

In the weeks ahead, “seeing things as God sees them” will direct our reflections. By all means, “SPEAK LORD, YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.”   The LIGHT OF THE WORLD gives us the vision to see things as God sees them.  Ordinary Time is, indeed, an extraordinary time.

Meanwhile, enjoy the lazy, crazy days of summer, and GOD BLESS…..         

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