I Kings 8, 41-43
- I hear a very small part of a prayer from the dedication rite for the temple of
Solomon. It refers to the foreigner who is not of your people. The
temple was the dwelling place of the God of Israel, and so it was the chief place where Israel prayed. This passage goes beyond
those sacred functions, foreshadowing the Gospel passage of today.
- The foreigner comes
from a distant land to honor you.
They come like pilgrims of all religions to the place that they hold sacred.
The word ‘foreigner’ is used twice, so distinctions still existed between ‘the house of Israel’ and ‘all who fear the Lord.’ But God does not check ID’s at the door!
- Listen when he comes
and prays. God of course
does not screen out prayers. We are the ones who need reminding of this. We might better say to ourselves that all people of good will are welcome in God’s
- That all the peoples
of the earth may know your name.
This is the message of the prophets and many psalms. I think especially
today of Psalms 67 (‘Let the peoples praise you, o God!’) and 117 (‘Praise the Lord, you nations!’). This is no longer a religious innovation or hypothesis, of course, but a central tenet
of our faith. Let us proclaim without hesitation the universal scope of Israel’s God.
- Because this is a prayer, I ought to elevate my body and voice. This is not the time for eye contact, though I am indeed aware of the assembly present
and my role as their spokesperson.
- Climax: Listen from
your heavenly dwelling. These words are repeated throughout the long prayer
of dedication. Israel
is asking God to accomplish great things in all the world.
- Message for our assembly: Let us be as open and generous as
- I will challenge myself: To speak in the reverence of someone praying
to God, and in the confidence that God approves entirely of what I am asking.
Galatians 1, 1-2, 6-10
- Now we begin the most contentious letter of Paul. He wastes no time in
making his case. An apostle not from
human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ. Those are
- I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called
you. We are dealing with a personal trust and not with a party platform or
with documents of any kind. My inclination would be to emphasize the first verb
‘amazed.’ I should really save my intensity for the last verb ‘called.’
- There are some who are disturbing you. Let them overhear this, and let me gaze on the text as I read this.
I may be tempted to refer to some faction or other in our own church, since those in authority are doing the same. Let me refrain.
- If we or an angel or anyone preaches to you a gospel other
than the one that we preached and you received, let that one be accursed! Sometimes
strong words do shake us from our complacency. And these are strong. The apostle’s very words have been used by church councils to condemn unacceptable teaching. I recall that the bishops at Vatican II strictly avoided using that language. So much the more reason for me to keep my eyes on the text now.
- If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave
of Christ. Let me contrast the apostle’s firm position with that of
candidates for president who are constantly backing away from their more controversial positions. As I say ‘slave of Christ,’ I will remember the hymn in Philippians that described Christ himself
as a slave. This will help me avoid reading the last sentence as an anticlimax. I should try to build toward it through the passage, and slow my pace when I get to
it, because it helps to justify all the severe language the apostle has used.
- Central point: No apostle is more important than the Lord who sent her. Paul
mentions ‘Christ’ four times.
- The message for our assembly: Do we rely excessively on credentials when we greet one another? Or do we welcome each other in Christ?
- I will challenge myself: To understate the thunderous curses, seeking instead to portray the apostle’s intense
desire for communion.
Luke 7, 1-10
- A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die. Yes, I have heard the version in Matthew. Now
what are the differences that I hear in Luke?
- First, he does not himself approach Jesus. He sent elders of the Jews to him.
- And the Jews speak on his behalf. He loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.
- And again he sent friends with the striking act of faith. Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy.
I notice that the evangelist gives an explanation immediately: worthy to come
- Say the word. For
I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. He knows
that giving an order can get things done. Let me make the same connection, and
not run quickly through the examples. I
say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes. My listeners have all given or
received orders. Many are veterans of the military.
- Finally, Jesus was amazed at him.
I do not hear any of the words of condemnation that we find in Matthew at this point.
- Climax: I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Let my tongue not stick to the roof of my mouth when I say this!
Take my time with this tongue twister that we said at mass in the late 1960’s and might say again.
- Message for our assembly: Not even in Israel have I found such faith. Do
we get the lesson? I have not looked anyone in the eye until now, but this is
- I will challenge myself: To project to the assembly the great example of faith by an unbeliever, and to make his words
come alive as if for the first time.
From Word to Eucharist: What
kind of deference do we show toward Christ? The apostles called him Lord. Of course we speak ‘not worthy’ though we still come forward, as we should
come. Let us think of ourselves as slaves of Christ, as Paul did.