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Ordinary Time 12 (C)
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Readings for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1. Zechariah 12, 10-11

  • I will pour out a spirit of grace and petition.  This brief passage seems to begin in a joyous spirit, like our Pentecost.  That would be misleading, for very soon we will hear of intense grieving.  Let me listen further.
  • They shall look on him whom they have pierced.  People pierce their earlobes with pins today, so what is going on here?  In my opinion, something more like multiple stab wounds in the chest.  So I need to call on my powers of expression. We have a grammatically complete sentence, yes, and it says "people are looking," but something deeper is happening and we have blown it if we don't reach down to get it.  “Look” is what it says, but they are not observing impassively.  After a coming to conscience, the people Israel understand exactly what they have done. I have to read it in a spirit of recognition, of movement toward a deep regret.
  • And they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.  I come across a funeral procession in the prophet’s words.  How does one mourn for an only son?  I have an only son, and how would I mourn him?  My aunt had an only son who died at an early age.  Our young ones today die from accidents, random gunshots, decisions for war and occupation, and of course transmissible disease.  We have all seen their parents and lovers age before our eyes.  They shall grieve over him, and it won’t be a pleasant sight.  I shall not paper over such strong feelings, since Christians have always applied these words to Jesus.
  • On that day gives my words even more solemnity, more historical meaning. 
  • The mourning in Jerusalem shall be as great as the mourning of Hadad-Rimmon on the plain of Megiddo.  Now the grief becomes national in scope.  We have brief glimpses of this at times of assassinations, and much too briefly after the bombing of the Twin Towers.  I note that there is no calling for revenge here because the forces of Judah with their hero king were utterly defeated.
  • Climax: They shall look on him, words applied to Jesus crucified.
  • Message for our assembly: Do we really know this kind of grief?  Do we know what it feels like to suffer like the poor of the earth, on the edge of hope?
  • I will challenge myself: To read with strength, as someone who knows about deep feeling and despondency.

2. Galatians 3, 26-29

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  The first verse of that popular communion song comes to mind. 
  • I remember that the apostle wrote Galatians in great outrage because other preachers were splitting the churches into Jews and Greeks.  Circumcision was one way of dividing them from each other.  But that ritual action is replaced by the life of faith they all led.  Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  I also note that he went further than he needed to go.  He says that there will be no differences of any kind among Christians, even though their society divides people into nations, social status and genders.
  • Another gem: All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  We used to say “put on Christ” and I don’t think the latest version is any clearer.  I could even twist the meaning in my listeners’ ears if I say it too quickly or without conviction, so that they might take this away: “closed yourselves from Christ.”  Heaven forbid!  I must savor every syllable and individual sound of “clothed yourselves.”  It will take twenty or more rehearsals.
  • If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant.  In other words, no defining role for outward signs like circumcision.  Heirs according to the promise rather than heirs through a covenant.  Our institution insists again on preserving our identity – sealing its members as it were – through such outward shows of ritual, catechism, devotional practice that “the others” don’t do.  The key word is promise and so I must build to that final word in my own reading.
  • Central point: At our essence we share a common trait.  We are children of God in Christ Jesus.
  • The message for our assembly: Do we still tell ourselves apart at assemblies?  Or do we see what we have in common as sons and daughters?  Can we get over the distinctions our society has nourished from the days of its founding?
  • I will challenge myself: To make sure the assembly remembers how many wonderful snippets of our faith come from Galatians.  And also how many accusations against the ways of our institution through our history. 

Gospel. Luke 9, 18-24

  • In Luke’s narrative, Jesus is about to commence his journey to Jerusalem. Today’s Gospel has much to tell us about the spirit with which he made the journey, and how we should make it in our own way today.
  • First comes the confession of Peter and Jesus’ response.  Here, when Peter says the Messiah of God, Luke says that Jesus rebuked them.  Peter may have spoken truly but a little triumphantly, oblivious to the consequences.
  • The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected and killed and on the third day be raised.  This prediction is similar to the words of the evangelist in the days of Easter: wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah (Peter’s word) to suffer?  We are hearing the unvarnished message of salvation
  • Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.  I hear a piece of human wisdom, interpreting the rise and fall of the great ones who all return to dust.  Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  He does not prescribe suffering for its own sake but as the medicine of our life. 
  • Climax: If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  It is not just the destiny of Jesus but the destiny of every Christian.  That is why we repeat it every year, from every cycle of the synoptic gospels, because it is a very hard saying that cannot be forgotten.
  • Message for our assembly: The word daily is added by Luke, for the Christian to adopt the same spirit and commitment as the servant Jesus, whatever the threat we face.  We will not all meet a violent end, but we must all confess Jesus before hostile audiences and find him in the most marginalized people among us.
  • I will challenge myself: To recount the familiar passage the way Luke meant it to be heard, as a challenge to every disciple.

From Word to Eucharist: At our core we are one people, united not by outward signs but by our identity with Christ’s life and death.  We rejoice in these signs, such as the procession to communion today, whenever they announce our unity and our openness to strangers and the needy.

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