Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 404

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Biblical scholars say Saint Matthew described his approach to writing the gospel in this single verse. He faithfully recorded the teachings and stories of Jesus with a prologue about his lineage and birth, and a detailed description of his passion. And he integrated that story with many passages from the Old Testament. His aim was to show how God's prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus. In this way Saint Matthew brought from his storeroom both the new and the old; he made a most wonderful literary “banquet” for the Church.

This formula might describe the work of the hospital chaplain or any competent minister of the word. Every patient has his own religious sensibility. Some are very devout, others never give religion a second thought. The devout may include liberal and conservative, illiterate and educated. One type of religion cannot fit many of them.
To put it another way, “All marriages are mixed.” No two people share the same religion.

The minister of the gospel in dialogue with many different people tries to discover the “tastes” of each person, and for that purpose we have an enormous “storeroom of both the old and the new.” Some will talk about the rosary; others are deep in the Bible; still others revere the saints. Many Catholic Veterans fondly remember service at the altar; the bell, book and candle of the 1950’s. Some are "History Channel Catholics," taking the half-baked, consumer-friendly baloney of the entertainment industry for gospel truth. Most people want to speak of their families; that is the locus of their religion. 

The challenge of ministry is to allow people their own spirituality and to encourage them in that particular way. My temptation is to try to indoctrinate someone in my own particular spiritual interests. The effort may be entertaining; it is probably not helpful; I hope it is no worse than tiresome.

The Holy Spirit gathers its own into the Church and whispers to each one's heart a word that guides the individual and unites the community.

As they leave the church people often say, "Wonderful sermon, Preacher!" The wise pastor has learned not to ask, "What did you hear me say?" The devout heard what God said to them; sometimes that bears a vague resemblance to the preacher's message! In every case it will be from God's storeroom, both the new and the old.

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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.