Reflection on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I had such a mixture of feelings when I first read the readings for today. The first reading says “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” That sounds like such good news but I can get caught up in the notion of no delay. It is hard sometimes to think about Ukraine, the people in Sudan and sub-Saharan Africa, the people in Haiti, migrants at the border, the planet itself and not also think that there is, in fact, some delay in affirming the right of these people to live without violence, warfare, large scale starvation, disease and death. I know that many people here and in other countries have affirmed those rights for people and the planet now in harm’s way, we have spoken out and taken action and yet it continues. My heart breaks for what is happening in these places. And, if I am not careful, I can focus my attention on what I think God should or could be doing instead of staying focused on what God is asking of all people at this time. It is an ongoing act of faith and trust to persevere when things look overwhelming or bleak. I admit that sometimes I pray that God will calI a few key individuals to their eternal reward ASAP in the hope that will cause a sea change in some dire situations.
Then I get to the second reading and hear “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.” And I cringe at the thought of how many innocent people will die and go to the safety of their heavenly reward because we, people here on earth, have created and continue to perpetuate unjust systems that are driven by power, greed and self interest. How many more will die in Ukraine, in Haiti, and as climate and political migrants seeking only safety? And all of that gives me pause when I read the Gospel. I can imagine myself thinking in such a way that I would include most people I know personally if I were to pray “O God, I thank you that we are not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous.”
We may not be arrogant and adulterous, but we still have growing edges and room for improvement. We are educated but there is still much we don’t know. We are committed and yet there is still much we cannot do. We embrace diversity and yet we don’t fully reflect it. “Laudato Si’” surely provides us with challenges. Our holy ground and the places we each call home
throughout the country have a history of rightfully belonging to others who were here before us.
But I am stopped short when I think about being humbled in order to be exalted. While I would very much like to see some of those who are currently exalted being humbled and removed from positions of power, especially if I find their actions unlike anything I imagine Jesus would do, and I would like to see God do it in the timeframe that appeals to me (now please!)It is much more complicated than that.
While I gladly accept the fact that Loretto has been exalted and praised for its stances and many actions in the past, I am accepting, but not so excitedly so, of the fact that Loretto is now being humbled by the realities of aging and diminished numbers. It is not bleak and there are still a great many wonderful possibilities before us, but, in all honesty, I would not mind at all if there were still 700 vowed members and now an equal number of co-members, and our actions reverberated through a variety of spheres as wide reaching as our choices of ministries.
And I recognize that it is important that we work together to recognize the humbling experiences as well as the new possibilities that are before us. It is out of this set of humbling experiences that Loretto’s continued mission and service will be raised up and brought to life. This Gospel reminds us that we, like the Pharisee, must do so much more than add up the sum of our good deeds. It is better for me, and perhaps all of us, to take a long, loving look at the real — the humbling, the challenging and the exciting — as the seed and soil for our future.