Scripture Reflections

In Fall 2020 we're featuring weekly reflections on the Sunday readings from voices in the Seattle University community. 

Contact JoAnn Lopez (lopezjo@seattleu.edu) if you would like to write a reflection for an upcoming Sunday!

Each Scripture reflection below includes a link to the daily Scripture readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' website. Audio recordings of the readings are available within the linked pages for the respective day's readings.

Check out additional links on the sidebar to help you enter into prayer and reflection during these days, including submitting your prayer request to be remembered by our community. 

At the bottom of this page you'll find the link to older scripture reflections for each week, including from previous quarters, where we featured daily scripture reflections and video preaching. 

September 20: Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on September 20, 2020 at 7:09 AM PDT

Sunrise over a field of wheat

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Today’s gospel inspires me to think about the possibilities that open up when we choose to think of our neighbors. As I hear the story of the landowner continually setting out and inviting workers into the vineyard, I am challenged to think of all the people in our world that similarly need to be found and brought in. I am struck by the generosity of the landowner, which allowed for individuals to have a wage they may not have been able to receive otherwise. Each person was treated with respect and equality, lessening the gap between the workers. I hear Jesus encouraging us to go out and act with a similar spirit of generosity, as exemplified by the landowner. If we think about God as the landowner in the parable, we hear that God continually goes out searching for laborers and bringing them into the vineyard. In a similar way, we as Christians are encouraged to go out searching for the marginalized and bringing them in deeper into loving community, treating all people as equals with dignity. When we work to bridge the gap between each other, we acknowledge the common humanity in each one of us, which transforms not only the relationships between us but our relationship with God as well.

The world currently contains incredible suffering and difficulties, it may feel like there are a lot of reasons to turn away from it and disengage , but I think we as Christians have the power and the calling to continually respond in kindness and loving engagement in our world. There are many opportunities to exhibit kindness in our own lives, and there is so much that we can do to alleviate the suffering of one another. Even one act of selfless kindness can change the reality of another person. In the midst of all that feels overwhelming and challenging about our world, when we stop to think about our neighbors, and our deep connection to them in God, we are empowered to engage with a selfless sense of action, a true generosity that we see the landowner exhibit in the Gospel story. What happens when we choose to exercise selfless generosity as the landowner did towards others? How could we all be transformed?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians also reminds us that we have the potential to exhibit Christ through our bodies. We each carry a unique capacity in our embodied selves, to be conduits of God’s love. There is so much power in our encounters with one another. Paul’s letter depicts a struggle we might sometimes feel, trying to choose between encountering Christ or encountering each other. However in the end, Paul emphasizes that the call to magnify Christ with the body is to act with loving generosity towards others, living as witnesses to the good news of God in our world. How are we each being called to embody God’s love in our world today?

As we continue in this week, let us consider: What transformation is possible when we treat each other with an authentic sense of generosity? How are we being called to exhibit kindness in the world? How can we begin to bridge the gap between each other?

Words by Tayz Hernandez, BA in Theology and Psychology, Class of 2021

September 13: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on September 13, 2020 at 8:09 AM PDT

an image of stars in space with purple and blue hues

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The Scriptures this week are challenging. On an interpersonal level, they make relatively apparent sense to me. But in the context of our society, with its particular history, things get tricky. I think that there is a dangerous trap that I must be wary of when reading these scriptures, and here it is:

I cannot let my fear of damnation, my fear of the “torturer” cause me to “forgive.” 

Let me explain. 

This human network of power, institutions, and relationships in which I live is utterly broken and sick with injustice. How in the world can I “forgive my neighbor’s injustice” as Sirach implores us? Who am I to forgive murder in the streets? Who am I to forgive rampant White Supremacy? Who am I to forgive gross negligence from our government “leaders”? Who am I to forgive myself for participating in structures of sin?

As me, as a white cis-man, as an able-bodied person, I am not to forgive the injustice of the world. I have no basis for forgiveness of these ills. I cannot forgive out of a smug compassion, I cannot forgive out of a naive optimism, I cannot forgive out of a pedantic fear for the state of my own soul. I certainly cannot forgive because of the very identities and experiences that I hold.

Yet, as a member of the Body of Christ on the Earth, I am called to forgive it not 7 times, but 77 times. The mark of my baptism, my belonging to Christ calls me to a higher nature, a deeper consciousness, a consciousness that wades so far through destruction that it finds creation.

And so, in a sense, I do not forgive at all. In surrendering myself to the Body of Christ, my forgiveness becomes not an act of destruction—an act which pushes injustice under the rug, which seeks to forget. Rather, it can participate in Christ’s forgiveness, which is an act of creation. 

But what does this mean for me, Nate, the white, able-bodied, cis man? It means that I am called to draw closer to places of injustice in the world, to listen carefully, and to dedicate my life to the service of others with great humility and care. I am called to live as a person of reconciliation.

To forgive in Christ is to actively engage in His recreation of our world, a recreation which embraces injustice and reinvents it. To forgive in Christ is to live in solidarity with the oppressed and to work for justice and healing. 

As we continue in this week, let us consider: Have you ever forgiven things or people more out of fear than out of love? Where is the Lord calling you to participate in God’s creative forgiveness in the world? How can we partner with to bring justice and healing to the oppressed today? Next year? 5 years from now?

 

Words by Nate Ross, B.S. in Biology, Class of 2021

September 6: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary TIme

Posted by Campus Ministry on September 6, 2020 at 11:09 PM PDT

A close up image of a person putting on headphones over their ears while they look out to horizon at sunrise

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If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8)

Today’s scriptures are all about listening well. Ezekiel is called upon to deliver the message he receives from God to the people – who in turn have a choice: they too are invited to listen and respond.

The Gospel, in turn, offers a method of conflict resolution that might feel familiar, especially to us in higher education: I could imagine a similar set of guidelines being outlined in a roommate agreement! The hope in this passage is that the one who has sinned will listen – either directly to the one they wronged, or to the wider community, bringing about change and transformation.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8)

As I read the Gospel I find my conflict-averse self feeling increasingly frustrated: why won’t this person, who’s obviously in the wrong, just listen? Jesus, are you saying that not only do I have to work myself up to have a hard conversation once, but maybe two, three, or more times?

Then I imagine myself as the one who has committed wrong: how would I respond when confronted with the impact of my actions? I know that usually when someone offers me feedback my first response is defensive. Quite literally, my entire body will seize up in fear, activating my fight or flight response. I can barely hear anything, as I’m mortified and apologetic, or I get defensive and angry. Through the years I’ve learned to breathe through the discomfort of the moment, and lean into listening when someone shares how I have hurt them. That first physiological panic has not gone away, but I’ve practiced enough to be present, listening, learning in those moments, which offer me opportunities for transformation, growth, and deepening relationship. Sometimes I still mess up – I don’t always listen well, or embrace change, and I then have to have hard conversations two, three, or more times, but I'm still doing the work, practicing listening and responding well. 

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8)

These days I’m breathing a lot through the discomfort as I try to listen, respond, and speak in new ways. As a South Asian, immigrant, woman in leadership in the Catholic Church, I’m wrestling with acknowledging my own experiences of oppression alongside my complicity in white supremacy. It means hard conversations -- with God, with myself, and with others. The old familiar panic is still here, but so is my courage and commitment to pursuing justice with love. So I'm breathing deeply, and trying to listen. 

The world is inviting us all into deeper listening: to the ways we are complicit in oppression; to how we have harmed our brothers and sisters; to our failure to live authentically into the love we owe one another.

The Word is inviting us to cultivate a posture that allows us to deeply listen, and to move at God’s prompting. God is constantly speaking and asking us to have soft, open hearts. The kind of hearts that can be transformed and changed. We are called to be instruments of God’s voice of love speaking prophetically in this world through our actions.

We don’t do it alone. We cannot let anyone else do it alone either. Jesus promises to be our companion in the journey of listening and loving, and calls us in turn to be companions to one another, seeing all others as neighbor, with eyes of love, calling each other into account, listening deeply, forging ahead together to a more just and more loving future. This is the enfleshed, engaged, enthusiastic, energizing, exceptional love we owe to one another.   

As we begin this academic year, let us pray that God will grant us the grace to come together in love; to listen, to respond, to speak, to pray, and to be conduits of God’s transforming love in our world.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8)

 

JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy

June 14: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Posted by Campus Ministry on June 14, 2020 at 6:06 AM PDT

Today is our final scripture reflection of the Spring Quarter. Director for Campus Ministry Tammy Liddell reflects on the readings for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

We will be taking a break for the summer, but will soon offer additional reflections from our community that focus on the intersection of faith and justice (coming in July!) Remember you can read all our previous scripture reflections here.

A sunset in the desert, with sand dues on the horizon

 

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The first reading reminds us of the long, painful, desperate journey of the Israelites. Each day must have felt endless, each new obstacle might be the one that they couldn’t overcome.  They wondered when, if ever, they would find their new home?  When could they stop moving, stop waking up every day wondering what new trial awaited them?  The journey from being an enslaved people to a liberated community happened much too slowly—the journey was too long.

In this exhortation, Moses is reminding the Israelites of their long history of suffering—but he is also helping them remember how strong they were on that journey.  That their story of suffering is, at the same time, the history of their covenant with God—a covenant that remained intact, even as, at times, they felt abandoned. God fed them in the desert when they were hungry—made water flow when they were thirsty—protected them when they were in danger.  The sustenance for the seemingly unending journey was not just in the form of food and water—but the very Word of God—the promise of God with them. Jesus reminds his listeners of that sustenance.  God not only fed the bodies of the suffering people, God fed their whole selves.  God was a source of life even in the midst of endless suffering. God’s love was liberation on the road to freedom.

Let us take this message to the streets, where the struggle continues—not for 40 years—but a 400-year journey toward the liberation of Black people in our country.  It is time for freedom from institutional violence, inequality in health care, economic and educational access.  The Israelites often doubted that God was faithful to them, doubted that they would ever arrive in the promised land.  Like the Israelites, we must return again and again to trusting that God is faithful, that God will sustain our bodies and nourish our souls.  We must trust that in the breaking open of our unjust beliefs and structures, the body of Christ, the Bread of Life, will transform hearts and change actions to bring about God’s justice and peace and freedom.

Listen to the songs we would have sung at the Chapel today, including songs from our Chapel Choir CD, Light & Shadow (2017)

June 12: Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on June 12, 2020 at 6:06 AM PDT

 A photo of a fountain at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, which reads,

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In today’s reading, Jesus tells his disciples, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." This is a powerful message. While Jesus preached and took on followers, the Pharisees became frustrated that this new prophet would dare attempt to undermine ancient Jewish law. Jesus’ response was to share his true intentions. The Son of God was not interested in breaking the ancient law, but rather affirming the spirit of the law. The Pharisees had become dogmatic and uncritical. Their application of the divine laws did not reflect God’s intent. Jesus was, far from a heretical figure, the harbinger of renewal that would reassert the importance of the law.  

This is an inspiring message. Falling into blind dogmatism is a sin that I myself have committed. It is easy to avow allegiance to a law, a community, or a state without thinking critically about how to make it better. Often, the ideals of a culture do not reflect its actions. Jesus reminds us that we can do better. While we may often fail, we should always ask ourselves whether our practices align with our values. Jesus died for this message. He sacrificed himself so that his flock might carry on his practice of adherence to true justice over the prevailing social order.  

Martin Luther King, Jr. also understood this message. The words ‘civil disobedience,’ which Dr. King himself popularized, imply the violation of written laws. Civil rights leaders organized the violation of laws when young black Americans sat in seats legally reserved for white people, and broke segregation policies meant to oppress African Americans. The Civil Rights Movement called to a higher law, the principle of inherent human dignity. On May 3 of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, the police used high pressure fire hoses and attack dogs to crack down on peaceful protests. They were supposedly ‘the law,’ but were nonetheless unjust and cruel. In his 1967 Christmas sermon, Dr. King reminded us of what occurs when we recognize individual dignity: “When we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody.” These words echo the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel today. We should not become stuck in asserting the regressive patterns of our written laws, but rather should be exploring whether we are reaching our highest ideals.  

Jesus’ words of renewal are vital to remain committed to “the sacredness of human personality” in our times. The authorities are not inherently bad, but they should not be venerated as indisputably right. Jesus frustrated the powerful in his society so much that he died at their hands, as did Martin Luther King, Jr. The Gospel shares the wisdom that to find justice is not to follow the strong, but to work toward compassion for all.  

  

Andru Zodrow, Class of 2024

Scripture Reflections from the Seattle University Community

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