24th Sunday in
Ordinary Time – B
In week 13 of my summer sacred study series on the 4 Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs [EPFVN], which is one EP with 4 themes, we reflect on the special intentions particular to EPFVN-IV: Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good. These inserts are added after the anamnesis [remember], offering, epiclesis [calling down the Holy Spirit on those entering into Holy Communion] and before we remember the dead and the Saints.
EPFVN – IV: Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good –
The Priest, with hands extended, says:
Bring your Church, O Lord,
to perfect faith and charity, together
with N. our Pope and N. our Bishop,
with all Bishops, Priests and Deacons,
and the entire people
you have made your own.
Open our eyes to the needs
of our brothers and sisters;
inspire in us words and actions to comfort
those who labor and are burdened.
Make us serve them truly, after the
example of Christ and at his command.
And may your Church stand as a living witness
to truth and freedom, to peace and justice,
that all people may be raised up
to a new hope.
Perfect Faith & Charity.
In one of our Lord’s most daunting challenges He said, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48] The first special petition in this EP asks God to ‘bring’ us closer to this goal with the help of His grace. For God never lowers the bar; rather, He forgives those who seek His pardon and peace when they fail, which enables them to learn from their mistakes. However, as the rest of this first petition reminds us: we are not merely in a teacher/student relationship with the Lord; we are bonded to God by a design of His own making, which we reflect on next.
We Are God’s Own People. As God’s children through baptismal adoption, we are forged to the Lord in a loving parent/child relationship. This has radical implications for our dealings with one another – in this life and the next. For God will ask us what He asked Cain: “What have you done to Abel … where is your brother? And
when Cain smugly retorted, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the Lord exacted a dreadful punishment on Cain for disrespecting his brother’s life. [C.f. Genesis 4:9-12] God will hold us equally responsible for our brothers and sisters – if we do not respect and care for their life.
“Lord, I want to see.” Before Jesus cured a blind man He asked the man what I always thought was rhetorical – if not downright silly – question: “What do you want me to do for you?” to
replied, “Master, I want to see.” [C.f. Mark 10:51] But when you think about it, do we really always want to see and hear? Do we not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to those in need? Don’t we often ‘keep our mouth shut’ – as well as our wallets and bank accounts – rather than get involved in the wellbeing of all in need? This leads to the next petition about …
Christ’s EXAMPLE and COMMAND. Jesus not only TOLD us what to do and how to do it … He SHOWED us how to be channels of His loving compassion and healing touch. So when we ‘comfort those who labor and are burdened,’ we are not simply doing ‘a nice thing’ … we are fulfilling a divine commandment!
We Must Be Living Witnesses to a New Hope. As Jesus said, “all will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” [John 13:35] Here’s a recap of what a 2nd Century letter, written by a pagan to a Roman authority, said about Christians back then: “They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through … play a full role as citizens, but their [earthly] homeland is a foreign country … they marry and have children, but do not expose them … share meals, but not their wives … live in the flesh, but are not governed by the desires of the flesh … obey laws, but live on a level that transcends the law.”
Would people in OUR time say the same of us? Can we truly sing that vintage Native American sounding tune, still found in our hymnals, ‘They’ll Know We Are Christians’ … by OUR love IN ACTION for each other and for all God’s people?
In His holy Name,
Rev. Thomas J. Serafin