August 27, 2019
INTRODUCTION: We are at the end of summer and have only a little bit left of this very beautiful season. All of us are fully blessed and loved by God Who has generously given us His/Her Word (the Scriptures) in order to speak directly to us, God’s children. This Word is too important for us not to increase and improve our graced approach to it in our Sunday Masses. Please allow me to explore with you a way for doing this before we approach this Sunday’s Scripture readings. And thankyou for letting me make these reflections a bit longer so I can do this. God bless you for that! Amen!
APPROACHING GOD’S SACRED WORD: Find in your home the quietest place you can find and be sure there is no window near it that can cause distractions while you pray God’s Word. There place a small table (with a cover of white cloth), a small piece of good nice coloured cloth underneath the table on the floor, and a comfortable chair facing the table and the floor-cloth. Take away from this area any kind of clutter that is not part of this “shrine to the Word” and which may be a distraction for you as you digest God’s Word.
On top of the table, put the following: a small Bible (that is not tattered), God’s Word for this Sunday and any commentaries on this Sunday’s readings (if you use a computer for these, please print out on paper these commentaries), and if you belong to a group that meets together to study the Word, a copy of the prayer the Group uses when it meets.
On the cloth below the table, place a simply cross, something that points to the Resurrection, e.g. some small depiction of Christ’s Resurrection, a simple depiction of a “flame” regarding the Holy Spirit, some “symbol” meaningful to yourself in respect to your own life, history, family, parish, etc. that points to God as Creator (it can be as simple as a small photograph of yourself), and something small that is gawdy and negatively represents our culture/society such as a fancy hand-glove or an empty perfume container or after-shave container or a very small whiskey bottle (as used on airplanes) or two or three money coins that are worn out or _______ (anything at all!)
All of these objects should be easily seen from your chair. This chair should be comfortable and appealing and one you like: make sure that it is not so comfortable that you will easily fall asleep on it!
Here is the process. Come to your “shrine” and sit comfortably on your chair. Let go and relax and be sure you are breathing properly (deeply and slowly). Take a slow look at all the objects you see. If you have a group to which you belong that studies God’s Word, slowly say the prayer the group uses at the beginning to gather together. Pray also to the Holy Spirit, using your own words, to open your heart.
Here is how you use God’s Word in this process. Take the First Reading and read it out loud – loud enough to hear the words. Do not rush your reading. Read it again (out loud) a second time and note what word or phrase or sentence catches your attention; say this out loud to yourself a few times. And now read it again out loud (the whole reading) a third time. After this proclamation to yourself out loud, ask yourself out loud, “What does this passage call me to do or to be?” Do this meditatively; if you can, do this slowly out loud but if this is too awkward, do it silently. Know that when you do this out loud, it impacts more on you because you are using another one of your senses and it strikes you more fully. At first it may be awkward but this soon passes in time. Do this with all the readings of the day.
At the end, thank God (out loud) for the particular readings for this day, and for the graces granted to you in this process. Not necessarily every time you use this process, but at least on a regular basis, state explicitly to God in prayer what you are going to do regarding what you specifically learned in this praying, and especially beg God to help you in carrying this out. Thank God for His/Her greatness and love for you; be sure to thank God for the person you are and you are becoming. You are God’s best gift to yourself, as strange as it may sound. Realize also from a holistic view of spirituality, this practice is psychologically good for you and beneficially lifts your self-esteem. God is good!
TODAY’S READINGS: The readings today point to one very significant theme: spiritual sissies cannot make it without God; supernaturally we must be “champions.” But how in all of creation are we able or going to be so?? For example, how can I “hate” my Mother and my father as Christ tells me in today’s Gospel? On our own we cannot make it but with God we will make it through Jesus Christ. Oh, by the way, in the Gospel today, you will be totally missing the mark if you take Christ literally! He is speaking as a person living in the ancient Middle East where you would use hyperbole to make your point: so “hate” here makes Christ’s that not even our beloved parents cam come before God in our list of those we are called to love deeply. So unless, God saves us, we cannot be saved – and God absolutely and certainly will save us if we live out the Faith acclamation “You are my God” (see today’s Responsorial Psalm). For us twenty-first century people it is hard for us to accept this because we see ourselves capable almost of doing anything and everything! But not here – we are to be humble, believe deeply and fully, and do what Faith demands!
Pay attention to today’s Collect (Opening Prayer). God redeems and adopts, and gives us true freedom and an everlasting inheritance. Read this sentence again! And make sure you grasp the statement in today’s Entrance Antiphon: “[O Lord], treat your servant [me-you-all of us] in accord with your merciful love.” Lord please do!
Background for the Second Reading. Philemon is a wealthy Christian who owns slaves – a common matter in those days. Onesimus is one of those slaves who has run far away from Philemon and who meets Saint Paul who has a really soft spot in his heart for him. Onesimus’ flight is a major crime and disobedience personified in the Roman Empire. Paul begs Philemon to be very merciful because now Onesimus has been converted and is a member of the Christian community.