Our readings today explore how faith begins and how faith works. Faith begins with God’s initiative of love, together with God’s promise about the future. The passage from Hebrews urges readers to have an assured confidence in God, who promised and delivered a lasting legacy to Abraham. The book of Wisdom reminds readers of the God who promised and delivered freedom from slavery during the Exodus. In the Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus begins with the promise that “your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom,” before describing how to live faithfully during times when God seems absent. God’s promises mean that God is fully invested in our future. Living in these promises, we can confidently let go of fear and insecurity. We can anticipate that when God intervenes in our lives, it will be for our benefit. And we can become God’s partners in fulfilling these divine promises.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect upon some of life’s deepest questions, and to explore the meaning of faith. We hear of the universal human search for meaning in our lives in the book of Ecclesiastes. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ parable about one who foolishly seeks ultimate security through the accumulation of wealth. In Colossians, faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ is proclaimed as the path to a richly purposeful and meaningful life. The path of Christian faith places our work, our sufferings, and our limitations within the larger picture of God’s purposes for all of us. In Jesus, God is revealed as our com-panion in human suffering and limitation. God’s love is at the center of a meaningful life. We place our trust in this loving God, who created us to share in this love, and to share this love with others.
Prayer is our focus this weekend. In the Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples, and us, the Lord’s Prayer, which we have cherished through the centuries. The first two words encompass much about our faith--unity among all Christians (Our), and a sense that we are in a deeply bonded relationship with God (Father).
In Genesis, we see Abraham in conversational prayer, in his creaturely humility before his Creator, seeking mercy and compassion for the innocent. The psalm is a lyrical prayer of thanksgiving and praise for the God who answered the sincere prayers of a people who had called out for help, showing them mercy. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples want to pray like Jesus, with the same intimacy--to experience God as Abba in the depths of their being.
Do we try to talk to God? Do we listen for an-swers? This relationship is always a work in progress.
How do we bring balance and joy to our lives of prayer and service to our loving God? In the Gospel today, Jesus tells Martha that her concern about doing the right thing as dictated by Jewish tradition might not be the best use of her energies. Her sister, Mary, who sits in rapt attention at Jesus’ feet, should not be rebuked. Is Jesus trying to show Martha that she needs to make time for her spiritual nourishment?READ MORE
Our God is about relationships. In the first reading, Moses reminds the Israelites that the laws, which are already in their hearts, keep them in right relationship with the God who loves them so much that they always find forgiveness. Centu-ries later, along comes Jesus, whom Paul describes to the Colossians as “the image of the invisible God,” the very embodiment of this God of love. In his parable about the good Samaritan, Jesus ex-plains how the law of love overrules the letter of the law. Instead of answering the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus demonstrates that it is not about who is worthy of being loved, but rather loving as God loves—about being neighbor, about being the good Samaritan. Jesus wants us to con-tinue his work as images of this God of love by loving all people, even those who seem to be our enemies.
This week, in the midst of summer, the scriptures greet us with joy, peace, mercy, and more peace! Sounds a little like Advent, doesn’t it? We often associate the prophet Isaiah with that preparatory season, and our first reading rings with such words as exult, comfort, and rejoice. The Israelites had reason to rejoice, for they had returned, come home, to a rebuilt Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon.READ MORE
In today’s first reading, God tells the prophet Elijah to prepare Elisha to succeed him. Succeeding Elijah will be no easy task; he has spent his life facing threats from the kings he has confronted about their infidelity to the God of Israel. The psalm illustrates the emotional and spiritual distress that the prophets’ steadfast faithfulness to God brought them. Paul’s description of the Christian’s freedom from the law as opposed to “the desire of the flesh” puts this struggle at the very heart of Christian identity. The reading from Luke’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ decision to journey toward Jerusalem, where he knows he will meet his earthly fate. Following Jesus--like succeeding Elijah as prophet--will now become more difficult. Unlike his calls to the first disciples, Jesus encounters those who are not ready or are not strong enough to journey with him.
Today we hear how Abram encounters Mel-chizedek, “king of Salem . . . and a priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Melchizedek appears nowhere else in scripture, but is nonetheless significant. Psalm 110 declares of the great King David, “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek,” a description later given (in the letter to the Hebrews) to Christ as High Priest. Early Christians saw in Melchizedek’s bread and wine the bread and wine of the Eucharist; Paul’s account of the Last Supper (in today’s second reading) is the oldest one in scripture. In the Gospel, Luke describes Jesus providing bread for a crowd in words similar to Paul’s, words still used by the Church: Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it. Together, these three readings reveal how Christian priesthood, Christ’s Real Presence, and the call to serve those in need are all found in the gift of the Eucharist.
Today’s readings show some biblical roots of what Christians would later call the Trinity. Proverbs showcases the role of Wisdom in the work of creation, portrayed as a reality outside of God but integrated into God’s work of forming the heavens and the earth. We join the psalmist in sharing Wisdom’s delight in God’s handiwork: “O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:2). In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes of peace with God through Jesus, and the love of God received through the Holy Spirit, distinguishing God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit while also displaying their abiding unity. Finally, in the farewell discourse from John’s Gospel, Jesus--who had earlier spoken of himself as Son of the Father -- promises his friends that they will receive the Spirit of truth that will teach and guide them after his departure.
The mystery of the Trinity refers to one God in three persons. We frequently acknowledge Jesus as “the second person of the Trinity,” but referring also to the Spirit as a “person” comes less natural-ly. In religious art, the Holy Spirit often appears as a dove or, as in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, tongues of fire. Much rarer are imag-es of the Spirit as a “person” in recognizable hu-man form. Today’s readings do not settle the issue of how to picture the Spirit, but they certainly give shape to the Spirit’s active power in the world and in each human heart. In Acts, the Spirit enables people to speak and understand a variety of lan-guages. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians praises the Spirit for all kinds of spiritual gifts, services, and “workings.” Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus calls the Spirit our Advocate and our divine teacher.