Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 464


What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”


Harold Bloomfield, in his book Making Peace with your Parents, addresses problematic relationships between adults and their parents. I cannot quote his words but I remember some of his principles:

  1. A parent wants to love the child; the child wants to love the parent. This impulse cannot be destroyed. It might be ignored, forgotten or denied.
    1. However, when frankly admitted, it can open doors to healing and reconciliation.
  2. I may choose to give what I want to give.
    1. You may ask whatever you want of me and I will honor your request. 
    2. If you want too much of my time, money or energy, I will not give it;
    3. If you want what I do not have, I will not give it.
    4. If you want something contrary to my moral beliefs, I will not give it
    5. I have the right to give what I want to give; 
    6. and you have the right to receive or decline my gift. 
  3. I am willing to receive your gift. 
    1. ...but if you want to abuse me, I will not accept it (physical, verbal, emotional, sexual);
    2. ...if you want to give me something contrary to my moral beliefs, I will not accept it.
    3. I have the right to accept or refuse what you might give me.
  4. …but that does not mean I do not love you. Because I love you, I retain my right to give as I choose to give and to receive as I choose to receive.

Doctor Bloomfield’s book describes the boundaries that enable a healthy love for others; it may seem short on the messiness of human interactions. We’re often expected to give more than we think we can afford, and to accept that which seems unacceptable. And in retrospect, we often wonder why we hesitated over those small sacrifices.
But the book reminds us of the freedom Christ has won for us; without that freedom the demands of parents on children and children on parents may be unbearable.

These principles, of course, apply to all our relationships. Always people want things of us, always we need the help of others. Life is a continuum of giving and receiving.

My life in community and my ministry in the hospital have taught me I must spend some time in prayer each day, giving and receiving freely in God’s presence. I must gaze upon him whose hands and feet are nailed to the cross, who is utterly defenseless, whose barriers have been demolished, whose boundaries have been erased. I must say, "I love you with all my heart, mind, soul and strength" although I know full well that my actions do not match my words. 

Nevertheless fortified by that daily immersion in freedom, I am more prepared to give what I can and receive what I am offered.

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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.