Reflection for Sunday – October 15, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14 
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino

Are we building a Jesus community, full of God’s Poured-Out Grace?

I have been to the mountaintop.  At least, to the mountaintop in Vermont that I know so well.  It’s called Weston Priory—surrounded by the soft, lush green hills of Vermont.  It is home to a Benedictine community of monks, a dozen men who open their prayer to anyone and everyone who arrives.  Each monk is unique: some have gregarious personalities, others are more subdued.  But all of them are open and welcoming to those who join them for prayer.  The place itself breathes peace.

Not unlike today’s mountain of Isaiah.  For the prophet assures us that God’s hand rests right there.  Offering “a feast of rich food and pure, choice wines.”  Wiping away the tears from every face.  Even to the point of destroying death itself!  Somehow, our Psalmist (author of Psalm 23) has been there.  He has experienced the “restful waters,” a banquet with “overflowing cup,” and total contentment.  Don’t we all want to go there? 

Yes, of course!  But, as Matthew points out, it’s not as simple as all that.  So many faith communities fall short.  For the past two Sundays, on into this weekend, Jesus has been in conflictual conversations with the chief priests and elders of the people.  What kind of community does Jesus envision?  His notion of community, it seems, doesn’t fit with theirs.  For his community is open to all.  A gift of God.  Enlivened by the grace of God.  So, then, how must people respond to such generosity?  How about with gratitude?  And thanksgiving?  Just like the monks of Weston Priory.  Certainly not with arrogance, like some of the chief priests!

What might such a community look like today?  It seemed to me that the hymn, “The Summons” offers the basis for some good questions for all of us to ponder.  Does the community reveal the love of God?  Does it grow the life of God within itself well enough to spill out into the surrounding community?  Does it “care for cruel and kind,” thereby becoming an answer to prayer?  Does it open its eyes wide to the needs of all, both within the community and even beyond, to the point of “kissing the leper clean”?  Does it use its burgeoning faith “to re-shape the world around”?  In short, is the community an inspiration to others, so much so that they long to become part of it?  If so, God promises to be at the very heart and soul of this community.

Speaking of community, just this past week Pope Francis presided over the beginning of a world-wide Synod, “a walking together to the mountaintop of God.”  For the Pope has proclaimed that the doors of the Church are open to “everyone, everyone, everyone.”  Composed of 54 women and 365 bishops, its purpose is to discern which issues related to communion, participation and mission are to be studied, in preparation for further action in October of 2024.  In other words, what needs/ demands our attention?  Just this week, the Holy Father offered this hope: “The Holy Spirit often shatters our expectations to create something new that surpasses our predictions and negativity.”  May it be so! 

Gloria Ulterino
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