Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
2) Jas 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Gospel: Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
As we listen to the Scripture readings at Mass today, the most difficult patch, I think, may be this portion of the second reading:
“All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (Jas 1:17-18).
A couple of minutes later, part of this comes back as the Gospel acclamation. This passage becomes something we declare to be true about God and his relationship with us. But what is it that we are proclaiming?
“The Father of lights” — that’s God who created the heavens (Gn 1). “No alteration or shadow caused by change” — the original Greek words belong to the realm of astronomy. The heavenly bodies move, the sun and the moon are shadowed by eclipses; but God does not change. He is good, always doing good: “All good giving and every perfect gift is … coming down from” him.
This God has “willed to give us birth by the word of truth.” He has spoken his word into our world in Jesus of Nazareth. This Word brings us to birth a second time (a strikingly maternal image!). The God who said, “Let there be light,” creates us anew.
The mysteriousness of the text turns out not to lie in obscurity of expression, in using arcane words. The mystery is in the reality proclaimed. If we hear and respond to God’s word in Jesus, it turns out to be not simply a message about God or instructions for living a good life. God’s word changes us. When the creator speaks, things come into existence: stars in the heavens, reborn men and women on the earth.
I once came across St. Paul’s statement, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The words spoke to me. They gave me an assurance of God’s love that entered my heart and has stayed with me ever since.
God’s word does not always seem so deep. It may come in the form of a little inspiration. “Put down the cellphone and go help your wife clean out the garage.” That too can be a creative word.
How have you experienced God speaking to you?
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.