Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 394

This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the  prophet: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.

Our first reading today, from the Prophet Micah, contains the worst kind of prophecy: 
Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; Nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil.
Micah insists the nation has brought this word upon themselves because they too have been planning evil. Just as they "planned evil and worked out iniquity on their couches," so has God planned evil. And just as their plans have been successful, so will be the Lord's. 

The transition from Micah to Matthew in today's Mass is the response, "Do not forget the poor, O Lord." No Catholic can hear that phrase without thinking of Pope Francis. As the ballots were being counted and the assembled cardinals knew they had elected a pope, Cardinal Hummes spoke to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and said, "Do not forget the poor." With that he chose the name Francis as his papal name. 

With that cheerful note in our mind we hear more of Psalm 10 and it is gloomy. In that respect it echoes the doom of Micah's words: 
Why, O LORD, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived.
Finally we come to the Gospel and hear of the doom that awaits Jesus, and of his response. 
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.
In fact, our tradition teaches us that the bitter prophecy of Micah has been fulfilled in the sweetest possible way. Responding to the threats against him Jesus abandoned every shred of property and security and fled like a refugee into the wilderness, where only God could care for him. 

However, the crowds of poor and despised follow him. Ignoring the hate of the powerful which has always been their lot, they have nothing to lose in pursuit of Jesus. And so he "cured them all." 

The psalmist pleaded with God, "Do not forget the poor" and Jesus answered that prayer from his own desperate poverty. For it is when I am weak that I am strong. 

Many people today are willing to help the poor provided that they lose none of their own security in doing so. When they hear "Black lives matter!" they react, "What about me? Doesn't my life matter too?" They're unwilling to hear the testimony of African-Americans about life on the edge. 

Many donors are generous with their expendable funds, money they might have used for unbudgeted amusement. Even multi-national corporations and banking interests are sometimes willing to forgive the debts of impoverished, misled nations -- to a point. 

Unfortunately -- and predictably -- that is never enough. 

Jesus shows that God has not saved us from his expendable funds. His superabundant mercy has gone far beyond the limits of affordability. Our need is infinite and so is God's generosity. The Father has loved the Son totally, pouring himself out in complete, self-abandoning love; and, by way of the cross, Jesus has responded proportionately, reserving nothing for himself. The crucifix is a daily reminder of the boundless mercy of God. 

In the infinity of their mutual love, which we celebrate and encounter with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are swept up and redeemed in God's love of the poor. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.