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Reflection on the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on June 18, 2023, by Mary Ann McGivern SL

Once at the St. Louis Catholic Worker the woman who had volunteered to give the homily forgot. So, at this point in the service she said, “The Gospel speaks for itself.” Today’s readings do speak for themselves. They say a lot. I pulled out just one of the running themes for all of us to reflect on together:

  • “If you listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other peoples.”
  • “Only with difficulty does one die for a just person but God proves love for us in that … Christ died for us while we were sinners.”
  • “Jesus’ heart was moved with pity because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” 
  •  “And Jesus said to the disciples, without cost you have received and without cost you are to give.”

These words are direct. They don’t need clarification. They make the same point, that we are loved, and we have responsibilities. We emphasize this point in our interpretation of the imagery.

We are the other people, not so dear to God as the Israelites. And we are the Israelites, God’s special possession, called to keep God’s covenant. We are the sheep without a shepherd, and we are the shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep. We are the sinners Jesus died for, and we recognize ourselves, like Paul, as reluctant to suffer, much less die for another. We are the sick and the lame, and we are Jesus’ disciples, sent to heal the sick and the lame. We have received grace without cost, and we are called to give without counting the cost.

God’s call is compassionate love. We hear it in the wind, in the breath of loving family, in the laughter of our friends. We hear God’s compassionate love in the harsh sob of breath that is the cry of the poor.

The whole world is suffering, calling to us with the voice of God. And we are here. We don’t travel very well. Some of us may know our way around airports, but delivering food to the sick is harder as we age, much less stopping war or ending famine. In another place, when the disciples returned from trying to do good, Jesus said some devils are only cast out by prayer and fasting. Yes, we can do that. 

And then on this past Thursday, four women in their 30s offered a retreat to some of us, calling us to think big, to think with compassion, to envision a just future of our land. They believe that religious communities have the power to initiate global change through land justice. Loretto and six other congregations have accepted their invitation to contemplate together the future of our land and build plans to benefit the world.

These young women believe in our capacity to collaborate in enacting new ways to do things. They think we can do it. The sessions are on video tape so you can hear them, too. 

Today’s readings are about God’s invitation to us to be disciples. I thought I was going to conclude by saying that as disciples we can pray and fast, which we are certainly called to do. But these women reminded me that thinking and imagining and envisioning are also works of discipleship. The commitment our leadership made to study land justice now offers us a concrete invitation to think together.  The speakers remind us of our painful history of domination of human beings and nature. It’s important to recount the dreadful sins that Loretto has shared in; what was amazing was to hear these women’s confidence that we can figure out how to share what we have to participate in reversing that domination. 

They are sure that because we listen to God’s voice and are God’s people, because our hearts are moved with pity for the lost sheep, because we are women who have spent our lives creating community for the common good, we have the capacity to share what we have without counting the cost.

The Gospel does speak for itself. Our guests just underlined parts of it for us to ponder.


Mary Ann McGivern SL

Mary Ann recently moved from St. Louis to the Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky. She is searching for entry points into Marian County, Ky., civic life — funding the day care center, improving jail services, helping stop a pipeline through Bernheim Forest. She is on the roster of homilists at Loretto Chapel’s Sunday Communion service. Mary Ann has been a Sister of Loretto since 1960.