Reflection for Sunday – August 7, 2022
Readings: Wisdom 18: 6-9; Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19; Luke 12: 32-48
Preacher: Sr. Joan Sobala
Abraham, we are told in the Letter to the Hebrews today, travelled to a horizon beyond which he could not see. “Abraham…went out, not knowing where he was to go.” (Heb.11.8) All he could do was to have faith and trust in the God who told him to go forth.
What began with Abraham reached its high point in Jesus, who taught his followers to be daring in faith. In today’s Gospel, the servants had a limited horizon. They thought they knew what was required of them.
To their surprise, the master in today’s Gospel story was so delighted to see his servants awaiting him in the night that he kicked off his sandals, put on an apron and served them a meal—frankly eccentric behavior from an employer and certainly not what the servant expected.
In this story, Jesus tells us that over the horizon of the servants’ waiting to serve was the friendship of God—not promotion, not praise but friendship with God, which is unseen from the vantage point of the long night of waiting.
So much of life, which is beyond our horizon, is the unexpected gift of God.
Every one of us gathered around the Word today has a horizon, the limit of our thinking, interest, experience or outlook. Consider your own personal God-story about first jobs, college, successes and disappointments, and relationships that worked or didn’t work. In every moment and movement, God is at the horizon.
We move toward a horizon both personally and as communities.
The community we call Church, for example, is always present, always moving toward the horizon. Some of us remember how the Second Vatican Council opened up for us new horizons:
- A new sense of belonging.
- A valuing of each other’s gifts of the spirit.
- New ways of celebrating the sacraments.
- Understandable liturgical language.
- The companionship of our ecumenical and interfaith sisters and brothers.
Not everyone ran toward this horizon, but many of us did.
Fifty-five years later, we find our American Church:
- 22 percent of the US population (the same in 2022 as in 2014),
- Full of people and bishops, some of whom treasure the mission and words of Pope Francis, while others cling to the teachings of Popes Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II,
- Divided by the June overturn of Roe vs. Wade,
- Led by fewer clergy and experiencing emptying pews.
What can we say about the church horizon before us?
There will always be a horizon of Christian identity.
As a church, we will always be striving, growing, becoming. It’s not over. Even in our weakened state, we can confidently say, not only is God our horizon, God is here to accompany us to our horizon. Will we find God here? There?
Sometimes, we get closer to the horizon of our Christian identity by our own choice.
This happens when we, as the servants in the Gospel who waited into the night, stay the course, probe the Scriptures and the Church’s living tradition, and find them life-giving, transformative. This happens when we shape ourselves and our communities as disciples of Jesus, the Holy One.
Yet, we know that the future is not solely of our own making.
The horizon holds unexpected and sometimes even unwanted developments. Think about being downsized at work. Think about the school you didn’t get into. These are not personal choices, yet some of the unexpected developments are serendipitous. So too with our Church: we meet new companions, shape new ministries, find new insights into faith, and deep value in the sacraments when we dare to go where we do not want to go.
The poet Stephen Vincent Benet gives us these thoughts to spur us on our way toward the horizon:
God pity us indeed, for we are human
And do not always see
The vision when it comes, the shining change,
Or if we see it, do not follow it.
Because it is too hard,
Too strange, too new,
Too unbelievable, too difficult,
Warring too much with common, easy ways…
Always, and always, life can be
lost without vision, but not lost by death.
Lost by not daring, willing, going beyond
Beyond the ragged edge of fortitude
To something more, something yet unseen.
Rather than stand still, let’s move together toward the horizon. God will accompany us and paradoxically, meet us there.