Scripture Reflections

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

June 11: Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

Posted by Campus Ministry on June 11, 2020 at 6:06 AM PDT

a close up of a person's legs wearing hiking boots and crossing a wooden bridge

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Today we remember Saint Barnabas, a leader in the early church, well known as a missionary companion to Saul (Paul).

Our readings today remind us that Barnabas and his fellow faith leaders were gifted at reading the signs of the times through the light of faith. Barnabas was sent on a mission by the church in Jerusalem to investigate what was happening in Antioch, where faith in Jesus was spreading beyond the Jewish community. In the context of persecution and dispersion, the early church in Jerusalem might have been suspicious of such an expansion beyond the familiar.

While the spreading of faith in Jesus to a non-Jewish community might have been beyond Barnabas’ imagination, we hear that he was able to recognize the community’s faith as “the grace of God,” which allowed him to respond by “rejoic[ing] and encourage[ing] them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.” He then took action to invite Saul to assist the Antiochian faith community, investing deeply in the good work God was doing in Antioch.  Later, as the community grew, the leaders of the Antiochian community, through prayer and fasting, discerned a new call for Saul and Barnabas, to be missionaries beyond Antioch, beginning a series of journeys that would lead to the gospel being spread to many. Our reading tells us that it was through these efforts at Antioch that the church became know as Christian – a distinct emerging community of faith.  

As I consider the Word today, I am struck with gratitude for Barnabas’ openness to the Spirit working in the world. Over and over in today’s reading we find Barnabas responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to venture into new territory, both physically, and spiritually. He allows God’s grace to defy his expectations, and says yes to the mission he receives from God through the community of faith. Barnabas embodied Jesus' invitation to a life of discipleship that we encounter in our Gospel today. Barnabas was an encourager (instiller of hope, confidence, courage) for the early communities of faith, and his name was given to him by the early church because it meant "son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36). He approached newness and God's grace with an open heart, and was able to be a true partner with the Holy Spirit’s work in the world. Just like Barnabas, our baptism calls us to be disciples who are sent forth as bearers of good news (apostles). Are we open to the new ways of the Holy Spirit working in our world and our church today? Do we have the capacity to read the signs of the times, and respond to God’s promptings? Are we willing to be surprised by God's action in our world? 

Let us pray through the intercession of St. Barnabas, that we, as a church, may have the grace to be attentive to our current moment. That especially when God’s grace appears to be bearing fruit in ways beyond our imagination, inviting us into the unknown, that we may respond with joy and encouragement, courageously partnering with the work of the Holy Spirit in our world.

 

JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Resident Minister  

June 10: Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on June 10, 2020 at 6:06 AM PDT

 A sign reading

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'During winter quarter last year in a class on leadership and spirituality, we read an interview with Father James Martin, S.J. that completely changed the way that I viewed Christianity and my faith. The gist of the interview was that we should not seek a life of happiness, but rather a life of joy. This statement shocked me: we live in a world that tells us that if we search for happiness, everything will be fine. But happiness is only an action, not a reality. Joy can be a reality.

In the first reading, we can see that Elijah and the people were not happy all the time, especially in times when it felt like the Lord was not answering their pleas at all. When are we like this? When are we not happy with God? When does it feel like nothing is going our way, like God is not answering our prayers?

After reading the interview I was then faced with the next question that would consume much of my studies at Seattle University: what is joy? For me, joy comes from being open to God, even when nothing is going our way. Just as Elijah did not give up on God in today's reading but rather persisted in faithfulness until God made God's self known, so, too, we are called to persist in our faith in a God of surprises who assures us that love has the final word. Living a life of joy requires first acknowledging that we are dependent on God, and trusting in God’s abiding presence, even in times it is difficult to perceive God. For many, admitting our dependency on God can be scary because where we are dependent, we are vulnerable. I'm afraid of being vulnerable, but I cannot be open to God without being vulnerable -- and it is from openness to God that I find my joy.

Even in difficult times, we can find joy in our openness to God’s presence. Let us join our prayer with the Psalmist today, who says to God with trust: “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” When Jesus mentions in the Gospel reading that those who follow the commandments are the greatest in the Kingdom of God, it is not because they are doing everything right, but rather because they are open to God and God's influence on their life. This brings them joy. What brings you joy? How will you be open and with God today?

 

Mariah Nickerson, Class of 2020