Commentary on the Gospel of
Today’s readings could, if one were so disposed, create fear in us. In the first reading from the second letter of John, one could become anxious about the warning against being deceived by those who say they represent true teaching but in fact do not.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus leads the disciples, and us, to reflect on scary times that occurred in the past; namely, the Great Flood, in which only Noah and his family were spared, and the raining of fire and brimstone upon the town of Sodom (and the subsequent turning of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt), as well as frightening images of people being separated at the Second Coming.
And the reading ends with a grim picture of vultures circling a carcass. These are a lot of doom and gloom images in one day’s scriptures!
But, as is always the case with God, we need to sit a while, be still, reflect a little deeper, and ask the Spirit to speak to us.
When I first read these passages, I admit they added to the anxiety I was already feeling about many things going on in the world today: confusion, a pandemic, rivalry and distrust, and uncertainty about the future.
But upon further reflection I saw the simplicity of the letter to the new Christians, urging them to focus on loving one another and not being swayed by the Gnostics, who denied that Jesus was fully human as well as fully God. I saw how God’s will does prevail, because what once was a great threat to the Church (Gnosticism) was overcome and vanquished. And that bolstered my faith.
In the Gospel, Jesus warns us not to be totally consumed with the daily preoccupations we all have. These things are not wrong – eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building – they are the stuff of life. But there is more, much more, beyond those activities. And on that Truth, the truth that Jesus came in the flesh to lead all souls to heaven, we should reflect and be centered upon each and every day.
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” So easily said, but so rife with heavy repercussions. Throughout our lives we do seek our own preservation. But down deep, I believe all human beings, let alone people of faith, know that there is much more to life than just building ourselves up. If we only seek our own glorification, we find ourselves empty indeed.
And the image of the vultures circling the carcass I now saw as Jesus allaying his followers’ fears about when and where the end times would happen. He was saying, “It will be obvious, if you stay close to me, to the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about it.” Again, this is God’s world and we don’t need to worry about anything except touching base with God as often as we can.
Today is the Feast Day of St. Frances Cabrini, and she is a marvelous example of putting one’s faith and trust in the Lord. She had all the odds stacked against her. She was born two months premature in Italy in 1850, at a time when that usually did not mean survival. Out of the 13 children her parents had, she was one of only four who lived to adulthood.
Because one woman listened to the Spirit of God’s whispers in her heart, this patron saint of immigrants went on to found orphanages, schools and hospitals, 67 in all, in several U.S. cities as well as other countries.
Mother Cabrini followed God’s promptings in her heart, seeking not to preserve her life but to lose it for love of God and neighbor. We can do the same.
And when we feel anxious, we can Be Still and Know That He is God, and that he will work all things together for good.