|Memorial of St. Alphonsus
Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
Psalm 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11ab
The Old Testament reading and the Psalm for today bring to my
attention the structure of our worship life based on rules and guidelines.
The language is authoritarian. "You shall celebrate at their
proper time" is repeated with "you shall" details in the book of Leviticus.
The Psalmist also reminds us of statues, ordinances, and decrees in
the way we "Sing with joy to God our help" in the time and manner ordered
But the gospel message says something else. Jesus is credited
with wisdom and knowledge of the Old Testament rules and structure for living,
but he challenges those who follow them strictly. Jesus wants us to
follow God through faith, not rules. The Lord who led us forth from
the land of Egypt made it clear to the people then and now what was expected
of us. We are to call on God for help with joy. But it is easy
for us to get caught up in the structure and rules of religious life when
we need help.
Jesus reminds us that God's mighty deeds are not done because
we uphold the rules, but because of our faith. And while He did not
withdraw from the people in his native place to punish them for rejecting
him, He moved on because they did not have faith that his teachings and miracles
were of God.
My personal reflection on this is that faith in Jesus offers
us far more hope in our times of need than do rules and laws. That
does not mean that our structured faith traditions are not important. But
Jesus asked us to practice them in faith, not through habit. Jesus
calls us to make our faith relevant in each time and place. I guess
that is why I am so thankful for the ministry of my friend John Ylvisaker.
He is the author of "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" and about
1,000 other songs he has written for contemporary sacred assembly. This
week he presented "Amigos de Cristo - We're Friends of the Lord,"
a Latin American music mass at my church in Omaha, NE. We invited all
the churches in the area interested in outreach to our growing Hispanic population
to participate. The mass incorporated traditional church musicians
with a wide variety of instruments, as well as a Mariachi band. And
we even sang "Alleluia" with joy to God our help to the traditional Mexican
tune "La Bamba!" It was a true festival of the Lord!.
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