29 June 2023

'She gave Christ to me.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate
Francisco de Zurbarán [Web Gallery of Art]

Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward (Matthew 10:42; Gospel).

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 10:37-42 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Jesus said to the Twelve:

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Head of a Peasant Woman with Greenish Lace Cap
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

There is a beautiful reflection by English mystic Caryll Houselander (1901-1954) in Magnificat, the monthly liturgical magazine/missal that I highly recommend, for today's Mass. I'll quote part of it.

The only real oneness possible [is] Christ in us . . . In Holy Communion, millions of small hosts are given to millions of people; this does not mean that Christ is divided into millions, but that the millions are made one in Christ.

A flesh and blood example tells more than many words. I was at a Mass in a side chapel where I knew the priest would have no Communion hosts. But at the Lord I am not worthy a woman came out of the shadows and whispered, 'Come, he has one Host for me; he will divide it.' I turned and saw poverty, suffering that shamed me, a woman in rags, her face burnt and hardly human, only the eyes that looked out of it shone with unbelievable serenity. The priest divided the Host reserved for her between us. She gave Christ to me, Christ's Passion to the world.

I have shared a story here a number of times over the years about an elderly woman in a poor part of Dublin who stopped me on the street when I was a young priest, more than 50 years ago. She was shabbily dressed but didn't ask for anything. She kept repeating how lonely she was. I can still see her vividly and have come to realise that that meeting has been on ongoing grace for me. I sometimes pray that she will welcome me to heaven.

But Caryll Houselander's reflection leads me to see another aspect of meeting and listening to that woman. In a very real way, like the very poor woman in Caryll Houselander's experience,  she gave me Christ in his Passion, or at least part of his Passion. - his loneliness. Jesus was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other apostles except for John. Peter had denied him three times. On the Cross Jesus felt forsaken by his Father in heaven: My God, my God, why have your forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).

Recently at a Legion of Mary meeting one of the members reported that at one of the houses two Legionaries visited the man who opened the door and chatted with them told them that he doesn't go to Mass anymore because he felt betrayed by scandals in the Church, particularly the abuse of minors by priests.

I would have been inclined before to see that as an excuse for not being involved with the Church at that basic level. But I have listened to people, some of them fervent Catholics, who have been deeply hurt by those same scandals. And it struck me that this is sharing in the suffering of Jesus. This can be pointed out to people, perhaps transforming their experience for them.

One of the most extraordinary statements for me in the New Testament is St Paul's statement: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24). What I think this means is that when we unite our sufferings, in whatever form they come, to those of Christ we share his life-giving suffering with others. 

The poor woman unnoticed by Caryll Houselander until Communion time at Mass in a side chapel shared the Body of Christ with her. The woman I met on a street corner in Dublin so many years ago shared with me the suffering of her loneliness and in doing so shared with me - and continues to share - something of the life-giving loneliness of Jesus himself. The cup of cold water that I gave her was a few minutes of my time and a listening ear and heart. (The Wikipedia entry on Caryll Houselander mentions the sense of isolation she would feel at times.)

May we place our hope in the truth of the closing words of today's Gospel, the words of Jesus himself: And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Calon Lân (A Pure Heart)
Words by Daniel James, music by John Hughes

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51 [50]: 12).

The response to the Psalm today is I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord (Ps 88[89]:2). Wales is famous for its male choirs but choral singing is not confined to men. It is part of the 'DNA' of Welsh culture. This hymn has become associated with the Welsh Rugby Union team and the video was recorded on the occasion of a game between Scotland and Wales, hence so many of the singers wearing the red shirt of Wales. The Welsh language, which is much older than and not related to English, is the mother-tongue of about one fifth of the country's population of three million or so. Wales is part of the United Kingdom. Its choral tradition largely grew from Methodist chapels and from choirs started by coal-miners.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 07-02-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Peter 3:8-15. Gospel: Matthew 5:20-24.

Apostle Peter Preaching
Lorenzo Veneziano [Web Gallery of Art]

In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:15; Epistle)

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