These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 149)
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
What a thought—that God takes delight in us! In a time when we feel so exasperated and angry with ourselves and one another, we need a friendly reminder that God still loves us and even more, God finds pleasure in us. And so the invitation to praise God with music and dancing and joyful song means that we are to delight in God. Saint Rose of Lima, canonized in 1671, is the first saint of the Americas. She found her delight in God through her service of the poor.
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:60-69)
We come to the conclusion of the great Bread of Life Discourse. Many disciples abandon Jesus, and when Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks if they want to leave him too, Simon Peter answers for all of us: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became his nurse.
And the neighbor women gave him his name,
at the news that a grandson had been born to Naomi.
They called him Obed.
He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ru 2:1-3,8-11; 4:13-17)
Ruth, the foreigner, gives gives Naomi a grandson, who becomes the grandfather of King David, and thus Ruth becomes one of the many great grandmothers of the Lord. St Pius X, the Pope of the Holy Eucharist, began the great liturgical reform which bore fruit in the Second Vatican Council much later. His motto: “To Restore All Things in Christ.”
Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you!
For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ru 1:1,3-6,14b-16,22)
One of the most beautiful lines in all of Scripture, used in songs sung at weddings, but not said by Ruth to Boaz (her husband), but rather spoken by one woman to another. It was Saint Bernard who said that in order to love others, we must first love God, but if we don’t love ourselves, we can never love God.
So she departed with her companions
and mourned her virginity on the mountains.
At the end of the two months she returned to her father,
who did to her as he had vowed. (Judges 11:29-39)
The tragic story of Jepthah and his daughter is probably the most horrific story in the Scriptures. In this passage human sacrifice stands without any correction . . . such as, “DON’T DO THIS! DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!” Personally, I would find it difficult to be the lector who has to proclaim at the end of this particular reading: “The Word of the Lord.” In the South we would simply call this passage “gawd-awful” and make sure it wasn’t included in the Children’s Bible.
Alleluia (Heb 4:12)
R. Alleluia, alleluia. The word of God is living and effective, able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God’s word has always been described as sharper than a two-edged sword. The Letter to the Ephesians says that the word of God is the only offensive weapon that we have ("Put On the Whole Armor of God"--Ephesians 6:11-18): “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Unfortunately, too often the word of God has been used to hurt people and to justify all our basest instincts from human slavery to the death penalty. Perhaps instead of being used by us, the word of God can help us to better know our own hearts and lead us to our brothers and sisters in need.
Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life. (Mt 19:23-30)
Sometimes the Lord’s promises are fulfilled in ways we can never imagine. The giving up that a disciple must do at times can be hard. I am grateful for all the blessings I have received through the ministry. It’s worth it all.