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Reflection on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on January 23, 2022, by Agnes Ann Schum SL

Human history reveals many periods where people lost a sense of God’s transcendence.  It may even be argued that human beings have been wandering and lost more than they have been settled and focused.  Human nature being what it is, we sometimes struggle with who God really is — the God of our salvation history.  We oftentimes rely too much on our own designs and pursuits, forgetting that we are meant to listen to the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rests, Jesus Christ, and not to ourselves.   For the past two years we have been forced to be “settled” at home more, but not necessarily “focused” except for how to keep safe.  We have purposefully avoided others who might infect us.  We have had all kinds of dire warnings about staying safe from THE virus, and justifiably so, but where is God in all this?  

The daily news focuses our attention on the terrible atrocities in the world, whether from natural disasters or human actions.  However, we could change our focus to the inspiring stories of individuals who see a need and move to meet that need.  Recent stories tell us of the attacks on synagogues and other places of worship. I also heard about a devastating fire that killed a number of people in an apartment complex and displaced many families.  But the redeeming part of this story is about three people in the neighborhood, a Jewish man, and two women (one a Christian and one a Muslim) who found a way to raise funds, in addition to personally helping these families to buy whatever their families needed. One woman had a total bill for over $500.  She walked out of the store without the receipt, accepting gratefully the smiles and financial aid of three people who were strangers to her.  God always seems to find a way to remind us  just how important we are to each other.  

Here and throughout the Loretto family, we have recently helped to provide clothes, toiletries and funding for the victims of the tornadoes that hit our state of Kentucky.  While we in Loretto are very practiced at meeting the needs of our farthest neighbors, it is also important not to overlook one another’s needs.  I am referring to the need for companionship, a listening ear, giving each other our time and presence, sometimes the gift of patience, tolerance and forgiveness. We are good about helping others when there is an obvious need, but at the same time, we may withdraw into ourselves and forget how important a smile, or a kind word or gesture is to others.  

As we wander and fumble to find our way, God is there bringing us back to holiness and giving us the assurance of the Divine presence.  We have to allow God’s Word, God’s life, to touch us and change us.  It can make us more flexible and attentive to the sacred in all facets of life so that every day is one that is holy.  Every day is a time when fulfillment is possible for one’s soul.  Jesus stood before the people in the temple to announce to them that the words of the prophet Isaiah came to fulfillment in him this day.  They all knew the words from Isaiah.  What is new is Jesus’ claim that He is the anointed one, the one who is to come.  How surprised his listeners must have been!  Proclaiming the words of the sacred scroll, Jesus was testing their faith and their faithfulness then, just as Jesus continues to test ours today.

Sometimes our lives are so confused and tangled that it is difficult to see the Word and hand of God.  But when we realize, deep within, the depth of friendship God offers to us it really has the power to turn sadness to joy. Going frequently to God’s word, allowing ourselves to be enriched and rejuvenated, and pondering the certainty of God’s fidelity and promise permanently transforms us.  We will be more aware of the sacred and the holy and less invested in things that pull us away from our search for God in our lives.

Traditionally this is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but in the global society that we belong to, I think we forget that there are also people who are Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, etc.  Jesus did not expect that all people of faith should be and act or worship in the same way. What He did expect is that we would all come to believe that each of us has a unique place in the body of Christ. God doesn’t forget. God always comes for us and finds ways to remind us that we are interdependent beings. We belong to many families, the family we live with, the Loretto family and most importantly, the universal human family. We are a necessary part of each of those families.  We have gifts that belong to us alone and gifts that we are called to share.  Perhaps this week we could focus on the word “unity” and what that word means to us.  Furthermore, how do we put “unity” into practice in our day-to-day life?


Agnes Ann Schum SL

Agnes Ann , who resides at Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky., is a member of the Motherhouse’s pastoral community care team.