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We never know quite where people are going to go in life, or where we ourselves will end up, do we? These two brothers, James and John, have aspirations for greatness. Or did they? In another version of this Gospel, it is Mama Zebedee that speaks up asking that her sons be Jesus’ closest assistants when He comes into his kingdom. For her, it was a matter of family pride. “Jesus, look at my boys here – they left me to follow you, so I depend on you to see that they don’t get left behind.” It sounds to me like either Mama pushed her sons forward (you know how moms can be) or was the boys’ dream, too? We can learn from the exchange between the mother and Jesus and Jesus and the boys. For one thing, we don’t always know the full impact of what we are asking for. Had James and John, or their mother, realized the full weight of what they had asked … they may have been the ones crucified next to Jesus on the cross.
Mama’s request is not that much different from some of our prayers, is it? We remember that Jesus has told us, “Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do it.” The catch is that when we ask in the name of Jesus, we are asking that His will prevail over ours. Have you prayed and asked for something that you didn’t get and then later on realized that it was a real blessing that God didn’t answer your prayer in the way you wanted? Maybe you prayed you make good time on the highway and later learned you might have been involved in a horrific accident had you been just a few miles down the road. You were the recipient of what some refer to as “The Mercy of Unanswered Prayer.” There’s an answer, and a gracious one – just not the one you were hoping for. The gracious response comes for a merciful, loving Savior who knows what we really need.
This Gospel reminds us that like James and John we are still in “servant training.” Jesus said to them, “Can you drink the cup that I drink? Can you share in my fate?” James and John are not ready yet for the responsibility their mother seeks for them. At this point they need more training in life lessons.
James and John learned a lesson all believers learn. We may receive some recognition from others, but we should not seek it. Rather, the words of Jesus ring in our ears, “First things first. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all.”
We hear many stories of kindness, heroism and servanthood. One such story is about a woman who found a stack of checks and a deposit slip all in the name of “Stacy.” Rather than looking for “Stacy,” the lady took the checks to the bank and deposited them in Stacy’s account. She shared with the teller that the owner would likely come in soon all upset about losing the checks. Tell her the money was found and deposited. Then tell her to read this note which said, “Hi, Stacy, I found your deposit and brought it to the bank. I don’t know if you take the train to work in the morning, but there is a homeless man who sits by the station nearby here every morning. If you would like to pass on the good deed, he could use a cup of coffee and a bagel tomorrow morning. Have a great day.” That was a Monday. The man was seen having a bagel and coffee every day the rest of the week. It seems Stacy was very happy about having the lost money deposited in her account.
This weekend, Catholic parishes throughout the world are celebrating WORLD MISSION SUNDAY. Collections are taken for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in order to support the work and witness of the mission of the Church. The liturgy speaks of the power of our witnessing to the difference Jesus makes in our lives. Hopefully, our servant attitude will demonstrate and inspire others with a caring heart and justice in action for the poor and vulnerable. We trust in the power of prayer, don’t we? We know that prayer is not magic. God is not a Genie in a bottle. We don’t say a prayer with the expectation that we will come out on the other end of our Lectio time fully grown in the Spirit, perfectly new, totally finished. As St. Teresa Avila, (whom we celebrated on yesterday) says: “Prayer is not just spending time with God…if it ends there, it is fruitless. Prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us.” And we know that it takes consistent effort to effect the words of a familiar hymn: “Make us true servants to all those in need, filled with compassion in thought, word and deed.”
October is DOMESTIC AWARENESS month. You are invited to participate in a Virtual Prayer Service on October 26th, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. The service is sponsored by the East Pasco Ministerial Association. Prayers will be of offered by the various NEPMA members including the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. We all offer a prayer for our neighbors, the residents of Pasco county and people throughout our world.
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Two lines jump out at me in this reading:
Jesus has already told them in this reading, four things they should NOT do: don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t defraud. I smile when I read how He sums up His list, it’s what my dad would say: “Do what your mother tells you.” The only time I remember him raising his voice to me was one day when my mother asked, “Do you want to do some ironing now?” I had said, “No, not now.” Wrong answer! Jesus offered the same directive to the wine servers at the wedding where he and his mother were guests – “Do whatever she tells you.” And when dying on the Cross, what did he say to John (and all of us) – “Behold your mother.”
Jesus told the young man, “You are lacking one thing.” That’s his challenge to us this week, figure out what’s the one thing we are lacking. Benedict’s Tools of Good Works (RB 4) is a good examination of conscience or you might use Joan Chittister’s listing of Benedict’s counsels:
Jesus said, “Do what your parents tell you.” Benedict says the same thing in several places in the Rule, do what the superior tells you. He gives a little wiggle room when he speaks of impossible tasks but in the end, he says obedience will save us. I’ve saved my mother’s message to me when I wrote to tell her that we now had the option of using our baptismal names and were shortening our skirts. In her own way she said, “I’ve tried to teach you the value of obedience. Do what your superiors are telling you.” RB 7 places tremendous responsibility on each of us to give good example when our founder says, “The eighth degree in humility is that a monk do nothing but what the common rule of the monastery and the example of the seniors suggest.”
Like many people, the young man in the Gospel knew something was missing in his life. There’s some of the young man in all of us … we know something is lacking. We are surrounded with media that tries to convince us what that the one thing is that will bring us joy and well-being. Although we know full well that wealth is not a guarantee for happiness in this life, that spirit can slip through the walls, even through convent walls. We can sense it when we doubt that the common goods available are not sufficient for us. We can act like children who don’t want the crayons put into a pile in the middle of the table. We each want our own box of crayons because we don’t like the broken ones or the ones that have the paper peeled off or the ones you can tell have touched another color or are just not the brand we prefer. Like the young man we want our own possessions and we want them NOW, today. And, we find it hard to part with any of them graciously even when we hear Benedict say (in RB 54) that the members should not presume to accept gifts sent by parents or friends without previously telling the superior who has the power to give the gift to whomever and the one for whom it was originally given will not be distressed.
Maybe instead of asking “What am I lacking?” we need to ask ourselves, “What do I have too much of?” Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, no one who has given up house, brother, sisters or mother and father or children or lands for the sake of the Gospel will not receive 100 times more in the age to come.” We may tick off all the items on that list one by one but the challenge keeps coming back to haunt us, “One thing is lacking.”
Jesus counsels us: “How hard it is, it’s easier to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the needle gate.” It’s hard, he says but not impossible, “For with God, all things are possible.”
Just don’t get caught in Peter’s trap – quickly retorting, “I’ve given up EVERYTHING, Lord!” You’ll hear the echo, “One thing is lacking. Go, give what you have to the poor, and THEN come follow Me.”
I don’t mean to make light of the Scripture designated for this weekend. However, I would like to call to your attention the lines between last Sunday’s proclamation and the verses skipped coming into today’s Gospel. They are too rich, I believe, to let them slip from our attention.
“Everyone will be purified by fire, as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, how can you make it salty again?” “Insipid” – that’s a rich descriptive word, isn’t it? If one becomes “insipid” can her/his ‘tang’ ever be restored?
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like at least a hint of salt. We may use it sparingly but we use it, or a salt substitute, to make our food tastier. Some, even when the doctor dictates against it, experience a craving for salt. How quickly the potato chips and Fritos disappear!
Other spices are different – many people are picky about them. Some think food is distasteful unless it’s peppery-hot. The mere thought of hot spicy foods ties my stomach in a huge knot. I marvel at people who devour a whole chili or ghost pepper.
But salt, you know, has many more uses than only bringing out flavor in foods. I found a list of 60 everyday uses. Here is a sampling: it can be used to end an ant parade, deodorize your shoes, to gargle a sore throat, clean flower residue from a vase, freshen up artificial flowers, remove water rings from furniture, extinguish a grease fire, or a cloth soaked in salt water will prevent cheese from getting moldy. Some of you will remember Sister Bernadette’s big dye pot! Well, salt is used to fix the dye in fabric. Without salt, the bright colors that we wear today would quickly fade. It’s used in the production of over 14,000 different products. Each year, food companies use an amount that is every bit as staggering as it sounds – 5 billion pounds of salt.
Let me not stray too far afield from Scripture, but it helps us understand why Jesus or the evangelist would use the image of salt in a lesson with us. The usefulness of salt was a well-known fact long before Jesus walked this earth. At one time, salt was so important and valuable that people were paid with salt. Thus came the expression “are you worth your salt?” Is it any wonder that Jesus told us that we were to be like salt to the earth? Listen again to the words of Jesus. “Salt is good, but if it becomes insipid, how can you restore its saltiness? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” I think that he was saying that we should “salt” that is, flavor our world with love. And that likewise we should allow God to use us, and our saltiness, in making the world a better place.
You may remember this Indian folk tale about salt. The story goes thus: Once there was a king who was trying to decide which of his daughters should inherit the kingdom. So he asked each one, “How do you love me? The first three daughters each answered: “I love you as sugar or honey.” The youngest said, “Father, I love you as salt.” The king frowned, but she persisted in repeating it, to the point that the king waved her away.
Sometime later she prepared a meal for her father but she didn’t add any salt to it. When the king sat down to eat, the first course included only sweets which he picked at with displeasure. Next, he was served meat, which he usually enjoyed but this was AWFUL. By now he was very hungry, longing for something which he could eat. The princess offered him a dish of common spinach, seasoned with salt. The king signified his pleasure by finishing off the dish with relish. She stepped cautiously forward saying, “Oh my father, I do love you so. I love you as salt. My love may be homely, but it is true, genuine and lasting. Thus, as the saying goes, were the Scriptures fulfilled: let us “Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another.”
How about you? Are you allowing Jesus to use you to be salt to the world? How are you flavoring the world? Are you an irritant rubbing salt in the wound? Or are you a soothing poultice held lovingly to a tender hurt? Are you worth your salt? Are we drying the salt of tears for the abused? Salt seasons soup in order to fulfill its purpose. Remember salt is no good by itself – it takes companionship to bring out its flavor. In whose life are you bringing out the flavor? Who is salt in your life?
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
Please join us in prayer for Congress that the members may come to one mind for the betterment of the people whose lives are impacted by their decisions.