By Martin Jumbam
Mother Church celebrated Sunday, July 07,
2013 as the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C. In the entrance
antiphon we pray: “Within your temple, we
ponder your loving kindness, O God. As your name, so also your praise reaches
to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with justice. Amen.”
Our first reading comes from Second Isaiah, what is generally called the “Book of the Consolation of Israel”. It looks forward to the promises of God’s redemption and restoration of Israel through a new exodus. God promises his people peace that will flow like water. Our God, the ‘Prince of Peace’ will gather all people into his kingdom of happiness. Jerusalem will be a mother once more, protecting and nourishing all her children. This message of consolation will be fulfilled by Jesus and his disciples when they bring peace to the holy city of Jerusalem, making her the mother of all the churches of God. The second reading is the final verse from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which gives a summary of his teaching. All those who have become a new creation through baptism in Christ belong to a new people of God. There is therefore no distinction between Jew and Gentile, all being one in Christ Jesus. They should only boast of being Christ’s disciples because Christ’s death should give them a different view of life. They should thus reject the old way of the Law of Moses which no longer holds any power over the new people of God.
First Reading: Isaiah 66: 10-14.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, be glad for her, all you who love her! Rejoice, rejoice for her, all you who mourned her! That you may be suckled, filled, from her consoling breast, that you may savour with delight her glorious breasts. For thus says the Lord: Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations. At her breast will her nurslings be carried and fondled on her lap. Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you. And by Jerusalem you will be comforted. At the sight your heart will rejoice, and your bones flourish like the grass. To her servants the Lord will reveal his hand.
V/ The word of the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to
The prophet Isaiah is the first of the Major Prophets
of the Bible, the second being Jeremiah, the third Ezekiel and the fourth
Daniel. The prophet Isaiah is often considered the greatest of the prophets. He
was born in about 765 BC of a Jerusalem aristocratic family. He received his
prophetic vocation in 740 BC and his long ministry spanned a period of over
forty years, a period dominated by the ever increasing threat to Israel and
Judah by the Assyrians.
The Book of Isaiah covers three distinct periods of
Israel’s history. The first part, chapters 1-39, was written by the prophet
himself; the second and third parts were written by other prophets when the
people of Israel were in exile in Babylon and after their return.
Our reading is taken from the second part of Isaiah
generally referred to as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel”. The oppressor
is no longer Assyria but Babylon, which conquered Jerusalem in 587-586 BC, and
deported the upper classes of Jerusalem and Judah into exile. Many years later
(593 BC), Cyrus, king of the Persians, conquered Babylon and the Lord inspired
him to issue a decree allowing those Jewish deportees who wished to return home
to do so. It is this deliverance of the
people of God from exile that this last poem celebrates.
In it, the prophet Isaiah announces the coming of the era
of the Messiah that will be characterized by its abundance of divine gifts. It
will be like a torrent of peace or an overflowing river. It will be an era that
will gather together everything that is good: joy, happiness, consolation and
the prosperity promised by God when Jerusalem was restored after the Babylonian
exile. ‘As on whom his mother comforts,’ says the prophet, ‘so will I comfort
you.’ The holy city of Jerusalem will give birth to an entire people in a
spectacular, miraculous way. She is the new Eve, the mother of all the living,
who gives birth painlessly.
What do I learn from this reading? The new Jerusalem
the prophet refers to is an image of the Church and of each of us. The Church
bears in her womb and gives birth to all her members, you and me, as the new
people of God. In the Church, God comforts his people like a mother suckling
her children. This is an indication that our God is actually closer to us than
we sometimes believe he is. He holds us in his arms in much the same way as the
mother cuddles her child in her arms.
In the course of this day, we should remember with joy
God’s continual presence in our lives. His peace and joy flow into us like a
river. Let us not keep it to ourselves. Let us share it with others, especially
those of our brothers and sisters who know no peace nor joy for one reason or
Reading: Galatians 6: 14-18.
The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God. I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers. Amen.
V/ The word of the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to God.
In the final verses of his letter to the Galatians,
Saint Paul gives a summary of his teaching. What should they be boasting about?
Those who were circumcised used to boast about bearing on their body the sign
of the Old Covenant, that is, circumcision. Saint Paul points out to them that
to his mind there is only one ground for boasting – the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the symbol of the New Covenant. Redemption has come to us through the
cross of Christ, not through the Law of Moses. Our salvation comes from the
cross, for it was on it that Jesus died for our sins. This was the core of
Saint Paul’s preaching about the salvation that comes
through the Cross has inspired Christians from generation to generation. “When I am overtaken by fear of God,” one
anonymous preacher said, “the cross is my protection. When I stumble, it is my
help and my support; when I engage in combat, [it is] my prize; when I conquer,
[it is] my crown.”1.
According to Saint John Chrysostom, “The Cross is the
sign of victory displayed to fend off demons, the sword to use against sin, the
sword with which Christ ran the serpent through; the Cross is the will of the
Father, the glory of his only Son, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the ornaments of
the angels, the assurance of the Church; it is what Paul glories in, it
protects the saints and lights up the whole universe”2.
In the Cross, therefore, every Christian should be
able to find support and strength for his daily life. The Cross has made us a new creation. The nature which God gave man through creation
was damaged by the sin of Adam, who thereby became an ‘old creation’. Through
baptism, we are recreated by Christ. All those who become a new creation
through baptism in Christ, belong to the new people of God. There is no
distinction among the new people of God between Jew and Gentile. As Christians
we must be messengers of peace to everyone. We must bear our cross and follow
the Lord. We must be like Paul who bears the mark of his commitment to the Lord
on his body.
Let us pray:
Lord, grant us the strength and the courage to bear our cross behind you because
it is only be proclaiming your name that we can be saved. We make our prayer
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gospel: Luke 10: 1-12. 17-20.
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them
out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to
visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask
the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but
remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Carry no purse, no
haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into,
let your first words be, “Peace be to this house!” And if a man of peace lives
there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay
in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the
labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go
into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those
in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is near to you.” But whenever
you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and
say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave
it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you
that on that day it will not go as hard
with Sodom as with that town.’ The seventy-two came back rejoicing,
‘Lord,’ they said, ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He
said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Yes, I have
given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole
strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the
spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’
V/ The Gospel of the Lord.
R/ Praise to you,
Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of this day tells us how Christ sent out
his disciples to announce the coming of the kingdom of God. He sends them out
on a difficult mission. “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” This is
a frightening mission not suitable for anyone who would put their hand on the
plough and look back. Through Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus warning his disciples
that following him takes enormous courage because hardships and trial lie ahead.
Those who accept to follow him are astonished at the
results: through their actions miracles occur as the blind can see again, the
lame can walk, the deaf can hear, lepers are cleansed and sinners are moved to
repentance. Wherever they go, they carry Christ’s peace with them. Before
sending them out on this apostolic journey, Jesus tells them: “Whatever house
you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there,
your peace shall rest upon him.’
The Gospel of this day challenges us to be messengers
of peace. Not only should we wish “peace be to this house,” but also be true
bearers of peace and peace-makers in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, although peace is a word that is heard so often these days, our
world hardly knows any peace at all. Everywhere, there is war; there are conflicts
of all sorts between nations, within nations, within families, among family
members and within us as well. There are
religious conflicts, class struggles, racial conflicts, terrorist attacks, etc.
But where is the peace Christ sent his disciples to proclaim to the world?
We are perhaps looking for peace where there can be no
peace. We can only find peace in God; it comes from him and it is a gift from
him. As Saint Jose Maria Escriva de Ballaguer, the founder of the Opus Dei
says: “Peace, and the joy that comes with it, cannot be given by the world. Men
are forever ‘making peace’ and forever getting entangled in wars. This is
because they have forgotten the advice to struggle inside themselves and to go
to God for help. He will then conquer, and we will obtain peace for ourselves
and for our homes, for society and for the world.”3
We need peace in our Church as well. At Mass, we pray
for peace, starting with “The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all” and then at
the end the priest sends us to take the peace of Christ to the world, “Go in
peace to love and serve the Lord and one another”. The Church therefore asks us
to be bearers or missionaries of peace to our families and society at large; it
calls on us to be peace-makers wherever we find ourselves.
As peace-makers, we must pray to God to bless
especially those families in our Archdiocese where there is no peace, that the
Holy Spirit may bless them and bring peace where now there is conflict or
misunderstanding. Every move of a
Christian must be one that brings peace, not one that makes a bad situation
even worse. We must therefore avoid backbiting – kongossa – which so often destroys relationships in our parish
We cannot bring peace to others when we are not at peace with our own selves. As someone has so beautifully put it, “Peace begins in the soul when we acknowledge all that separates us from God with a heartfelt act of contrition.” Christ must first be present in our hearts before we can spread peace around us because where Christ is absent, there is no peace. “Peace be with you,” he tells his disciples when he visits them in their hideout shortly after rising from the dead. His peace flows into our hearts like the stream which the prophet Isaiah talks about in the first reading of this day. “Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations” (Is 66: 12). As Christians we must spread peace around us. “The peace of Christ,” Father Kizito Forbi, sj, tells us, “is not a peace that wants to make everybody be like me or think like me, or look like me; rather, it is a peace that respects and tolerates the difference in the other”4.
1. Quoted in the Navarre Bible, Romans and Galatians, p. 210
2. ibid, p. 210
3 The Forge, 102, quoted in Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Daily Meditations, Vol. 4, p. 75).
4. Harden not your hearts, Sunday Gospel Reflection Year C, p. 125).