Get to Work! ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Doesn’t it always seem to happen that when we sit at Mass and listen to the readings, it is as if they are directed straight from the Lectionary to our hearts? Psalms, readings, the Gospel for the day, stories and words we have read or heard many, many times are sharpened, aimed, and strike us as if we had never encountered these messages before.

Today’s Alleluia verse:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ

And entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Let’s say I read this a year ago, which I probably did…OK, glad to be informed of this…all part of the ongoing message of the Bible…tuck it away with the other interesting things I’ve read.

But today, when it’s coupled with the readings from Ezekiel and Romans, the 95th Psalm, and the Gospel of Matthew, it takes on a new and definitely hortatory message: “Get up, get out, and get cracking!”

So much for sitting in the pew, listening to the Mass, relaxing on a Sunday morning!

I’m reminded of a discussion I had with my mother many years ago. I must have been around 12 years old. (Yes, before electricity was discovered…and the wheel…) She told me that we don’t go to Mass and just sit there. We don’t “attend” Mass. We don’t listen to the Mass. She told me and my siblings that we “assist” at the Mass, an active verb, indicating that we are as much a part of the action as the priest and the altar boys. We were not an audience, but players in a sacred rite of worship and praise.

And every so often, from that time on, she would ask us if we had assisted at Mass that Sunday. I wish you all could have met her. She was something else!

So what are we being asked to do on this Twenty third Sunday of Kingdomtide? I think there’s not much gray area here. It’s pretty black and white. And we really don’t have much choice in the matter.

Ezekiel says it right off: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.” And although this was written about 2,500 years ago, do you really think it does not apply to you, or to me, right now, today?

Now let me ask, are today’s readings just orders for us to get our kit together and hit the road, like Saint Dominic? We are assisting the priest as she performs the rites in memory of Jesus. So in one way, we are told this isn’t just an hour long-show we’re attending. No, today of all days, we are reminded that if we love our neighbor as ourselves we really have to do more than just wish him or her well. Love is an active verb.

Now Martin Luther, and those who ascribed to his new revelations, came up with the realization that to be saved, to be justified, all we had to do is accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior and believe that he came to earth to save us. “That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law…. Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ.”

Luther was reacting to the corrupt practices of the Medieval Church which was selling indulgences and, he thought, preaching false doctrine in order to keep control over all Christians.

His preaching and writings on what has been called “sola fide”, by faith alone, is the theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and led to the variety of “Christian” beliefs that we find today all over the world. Discord, anger, rebellion, and bloodshed, all over two Latin words.

And so, we can find today discussions that say, from one extreme, that even the worst kind of sinner, as long as he or she “believes”, is forgiven and justified, to the other extreme that only those who commit their whole lives to good works are saved.

And so we can interpret today’s readings from one extreme to the other. And many have. But there is at play here just the age-old quest for power, for a desire to control others…to be the one in charge. “Do it this way, or you’re fired!” And to what end? What do we get if we rule the roost?

Now let’s go back and consider again the Alleluia from today:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ

And entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Entrusting.

Once again, we see that God is not the terrifying presence from some concepts in the Old Testament. God is within us. And part of us. And that still, small voice within.

We are partners with God in the ageless quest to bring us all to peace and love. And yes, though we recognize that we are “children of God” we also know that we are, by our intelligence, our compassion, and our calling to the Order of Preachers, that we are entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

So for me, and perhaps for you, today’s readings are like what sales organizations schedule for their sales crew: a quarterly motivational conference that gets us back on track and gives us a boost for the serious work of preaching the good news of salvation to all the world. Let’s go out and close some deals!

Lord, help us in our efforts to show the world your love and compassion. Let your good spirit flow over us and help us to bring solace to our troubled times.

Amen.

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