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Ordinary Time 14 (C)
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Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1. Isaiah 66, 10-14

  • Rejoice with Jerusalem!  Our reading begins on a high note.  And I will start on the same high note.  Our story does not end there; it continues to its fulfillment.
  • I remember, as I read this first verse, that the church has always used it to begin the middle Sunday of Lent (Laetare or Rejoice Sunday). 
  • Our selection comes from the last part of the so-called Third Isaiah, who sought to comfort and challenge the people who returned to Zion from their long exile.  What can I learn and pass on to the church from the passage?
  • Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort!  For a moment we are babies being nursed by our mother.
  • Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river.  This promise is not just an open pledge to every listener, but even more an incentive to those who have ‘invested’ in Judah.  Remember that the prophet is addressing all you who love her, all you who were mourning over her.  I look on the passage, in fact the entire chapter 66 of Isaiah, as a prospectus for Jerusalem.
  • The images of a mother intermingle with the economic boom.  As nurslings you shall be carried in her arms.  I shall rehearse a voice of tenderness for these words, and a bit of salesmanship for our investment.  God promises not mere life but abundant life: like a river, like an overflowing torrent.
  • The Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.  This is not happening by accident.  Judah is recovering with the help of God.
  • Climax: The beginning words, Rejoice!  Be glad!  Exult! 
  • Message for our assembly: Is our God sterile like an ancient statue, or is God filled with comfort as a mother?  Let us listen to the prophets.
  • I will challenge myself: to find the right mix of tenderness and salesmanship. 

2. Galatians 6, 14-18

  • Today we conclude our pass through Galatians, the apostle’s most biting letter.  And we hear part of the biting conclusion to the letter, this time not dictated to a scribe: “See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand!”
  • May I never boast – except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Once again I have to begin with all my powers of interpretation.  My listeners have heard this so many times that they think they have exhausted its meaning.  And yet we are all guilty of boasting of our personal progress, of the health and happiness of our children, with no misfortune anything like a cross.  Let me emphasize “I” and make a brief pause after ‘boast.’
  • Through it the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  Once again the values that count in this life – progress, honor, security, fame – mean nothing to the apostle.  I will lengthen slightly ‘world’ to make this stand out.
  • Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God.  He has changed the traditional blessing in a significant way.  It is not “Shalom be upon Israel,” but upon a greater Israel that has declared for Jesus.
  • From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.  The key word is ‘Jesus’ because the apostle has become his servant.  And the tone is one of authority.  Can any of those missionaries show all the scars that he showed proudly?  My tone should not be haughty or angry or even defensive, but should appeal to a place of honor that would be evident to all.
  • The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Let me conclude the reading, as Paul concludes the letter, with a heartfelt blessing.  No invective here, no argumentation, but a spirit of union with the church.  
  • Climax: The first words of the passage, May I never boast
  • The message for our assembly: What counts for us?  The ‘world’ or Christ?  Sometimes we have to choose.
  • I will challenge myself: To echo the self-assurance of the apostle.

Gospel. Luke 10, 1-12 and 17-20

  • The Lord appointed seventy-two others.  This is a mission to every town and place he intended to visit.  Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, as the evangelist narrates, and he wants to involve others in that journey.
  • The harvest is abundant; I am sending you like lambs; first say ‘Peace to this household.’  I hear a version of the commission that is filled with collected admonitions.  They don’t always fit well together.  I will make some space between each one, allowing my listeners to hear the details.
  • I hear much neighborly advice today.  Peace to this household; Your peace will rest on him; Stay in the same house; Do not move about; Wherever they welcome you.  They should expect to be welcomed but should be prepared if they are not.  Luke has turned one action into a formula: The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you. 
  • I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.  Jesus is heartened with the disciples’ reports, and he makes a kind of folklore response that they would appreciate.  Evil in its incarnations is being challenged at the core.  That is why I make the connection between their success and the coming of the Kingdom.
  • Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.  I remember that the emissaries returned rejoicing, and recall the connection with today’s first reading.  Though we are beginning a more serious part of Luke’s Gospel, not so much a class excursion to the capital city as a bold challenge to the powers residing there, everyone should remember that God goes before them.  That is the meaning of the symbolic words, and the reason for the rejoicing.  I should look for such a high tone in my reading.
  • Climax: The kingdom of God is at hand for you.  The evangelist says it twice, both for those who accept the disciples and those who reject them.
  • Message for our assembly: Are we recipients or missionaries, or merely idle onlookers?  How do we see ourselves in this reading and in the universal church?
  • I will challenge myself: To declare the reading with a sense of impending success.  Jesus goes to meet his apparent end, but the wonders of God are present in the world.

From Word to Eucharist: Change is the watchword in our readings today.  The scriptures are filled with promises of change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.  If we declare for God, for Jesus, we shall overcome.  Our institution may be intent on managing or co-opting the change, or turning back the clock.  In our inmost heart we know that we shall find the Lord as we come forward.  The best yet remains.

 

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