Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 150

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.

“Black lives matter!” This cry has been heard in our country the last several months; and it has met considerable resistance.
Perhaps the first response was meant to be helpful – “All lives matter.” – but it missed the point. Certain people were saying Black Lives Matter and they would not be refused a particular hearing. 

Another response pushed back, saying that racial discrimination no longer exists in America. That was easy for some people to say since they weren’t the complainants. I’m old enough to remember a similar response of the 1950’s and 1960’s when Negros were told to "Wait awhile!" and “Know your place.”
Neither response reflects today’s scripture readings; they assure us that God hears the cry of the lowly regardless of what others might say about them; regardless even of the justice of their complaint. God will hear the plea and “judge justly and affirm the right, and the Lord will not delay.”

I suspect the fearful response to “Black Lives Matter” supposes that God might indeed hear the complaint and set things right, regardless of the disruption, upheaval or revolution that action might entail. It’s better, they suppose, to let sleeping dogs lie.

The Lord's justice will certainly come as a surprise, to both the poor and the wicked. The poor will be astonished that, after all this time, they will be shown mercy. The wicked will not even remember their crimes. 

I have personally seen this in the case of sexual abusers. They frankly cannot remember what they said or did; it wasn't that important to them! The victim was stunned, shamed, overwhelmed, humiliated, even traumatized; and the perpetrator never gave it a second thought! We're seeing this drama played out in public right now; it is painful, humiliating and deeply disturbing for everyone. 
The publican in today’s gospel models the response that Jesus would teach us. This poor man does not judge his own case nor that of the Pharisee in the front of the temple. He is profoundly aware of his own sin and has nothing to lose by admitting it before God. He is willing to hear the voice of his accusers; perhaps he has heard them already and that's why he is in the temple. 

We cannot live in community without rubbing, bumping and occasionally bruising one another. To imagine oneself as always innocent is to play the pharisee. 

Each Sunday we ask the Lord to show us our sins, especially our sins against one another. God proves his mercy by showing us our sins. 

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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.