Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, by S. Norma Rocklage OSF

“What is within our grasp, we find with difficulty” (Wis. 9:16).  The readings of this Sunday are among the most challenging in Scripture and in the case of the Gospel, one of the harshest passages against selfish possessiveness.  The responsorial psalm reminds us starkly that we are mere humans, our days are numbered and most of them are filled with anxiety and trouble.  The passage from Wisdom confronts us with the awesome truth that we as humans can never really know God’s mind since our reasonings are unsure and our intentions are unstable.  Paul calls Philemon to a somewhat heroic stage of forgiveness, to receive back with loving forgiveness his former slave Onesimus, who had run away with stolen goods, not as as a returning slave but as a beloved in Christ.  And Jesus shakes us up with his distressing announcement that unless we turn our backs on our loved ones and ourselves we cannot be his disciples!  It isn’t easy to walk in the footprints of Jesus and proclaim God’s love by our very lives. In fact, it is almost impossible unless we can become truly spiritually poor, unless we can embrace honestly our vulnerability and neediness, unless we can dare to let go of anything or anyone or any aspect of ourselves which keeps us from experiencing the power of Christ’s Spirit working in us in ways we cannot imagine.  Unholy possessiveness of any sort keeps us from finding “what is in our grasp”–the “waking in the morning, filled with God’s love and sweetness” (Ps. 90)–the joy of being Christ’s disciples.

God, you are always with us as loving, compassionate and forgiving.  But we so often in our self-centeredness and pride refuse to acknowledge our need for you and instead serve other “idols” which soon possess us and prevent us from hearing your call within us to become the gifts you created us to be, persons who share your Presence with all with whom we love and work.  We dare to ask you to DISTURB us when we refuse to take the time to truly listen to your messages to us; DISTURB us when we hold on to things or persons which lessen the pain of seeking YOU when our hearts are restless; DISTURB us when we are tempted to give you, sparingly, from our abundance rather than from the very substance of our hearts.  DISTURB us enough to become willing in love to “take up our Cross daily” to walk in your footprints.

S. Norma Rocklage, OSF

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