4th Sunday Ordinary Time

One of the most freeing and deepening lessons I ever learned about my relationship with God and with the Sacred Scriptures came from a seminary professor of mine who told me:  “If you don’t wrestle, disagree, argue, love, cry over and cry with Sacred Scripture then you are not engaging with it!”

I grew up believing that I couldn’t disagree with three things, my parents, the Baltimore Catechism and Sacred Scripture.  In fact, Scripture I was lead to believe is so beyond my own comprehension that we were not even to read it outside of the readings we heard at Sunday Mass.

And now, in a major seminary, I was set free to engage with Sacred Scripture in a way that I never believed I could.  I was free to argue, wrestle, study, scrutinize, look at everything and then decide how I would live with that particular piece of Sacred Scripture.

I share this because of the second reading we heard tonight from Paul’s 1st Letter to the community at Corinth.  Many of us in ministry would disagree with what Paul says.  And can we disagree?  Yes!!!!   We can AND we can dig deep to find out what truth lies underneath the sayings, because it is the Inspired Word of God!

We must remember, this Bible…..as Catholics we believe it is the Inspired Word of God, not the Words of God!  It is a faith document.  Written by people of faith, for people of faith, to inspire faith!

So can you argue, wrestle, disagree, struggle and love Sacred Scripture….YES….and not only CAN we; we OUGHT to!

Now on to our second point for our reflection today.

The story of the one possessed in the temple brings up a very interesting dilemma.  You see, there are many other stories of faith healers, early physicians, shamans and some even during the time of Jesus who claimed to cure those whose demeanor was out of the norm.  It was not an uncommon experience to know a shaman, or a holy one or herbalist who would be seen in a town of the ancient Middle East as the one who could restore a person to health.

But what makes this story a bit unique is the fact that the one who was possessed by the demon, reportedly the demon clearly identifies Jesus.  Scripture scholars have pondered if Jesus even understood his own mission and purpose at this point in his ministry?  It does still puzzle Scripture Scholars in that regard.

But there is something that is unique about Jesus’ ministry!  I was in a meeting with the Bishops of TOCCUSA the other night and this question came up……What was so unique about Jesus ministry in comparison to other faith healers and shamans of his day?  We came to the conclusion that the uniqueness of Jesus message was the message of universal love for all.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  That was a mind-blowing concept in then ancient world.  Love and respect and honor for your fellow clan member was expected, even demanded.  But beyond that small circle of sacred family, the concept of “love” was not common.  It was unique in Jesus’ ministry and in his message.

I wonder if we understood or understand the radical nature of the invitation of Jesus to each and every one of us?

Yes it is clear….we shall love our God and we shall love our neighbor…..not just in our clan…but beyond….and as the world shrinks with the growth of technology, it also means our circle of influence and care both are expanding exponentially.

We cannot just care about Spirit of Hope, or St. Paul, or Minnesota.  We our neighbor now includes Myanmar, Palestine, Africa, and every other location in the world.

Not so easy now is it?  All of a sudden the radical message of Jesus retains it’s radicalness and we are again challenged to change our own point of view.  What an amazing journey the Spiritual Life is!