A reflection on the readings for Sunday, November 7, 2021 — The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

You cannot serve both God and mammon.

Since the Scriptures were written, they have sought to warn the leaders of the flock about what is good shepherding and what is not. But we never seem to get the point.

Reading and rereading the same texts every year, the Office of Readings complements Isaiah with exhortations from St. Augustine through to Pope Gregory. They all tell us that lure of power and influence which money purportedly brings can blind us.

So all-corrupting is power that those who do not partake in the game are looked upon with disapproval. In the BBC rendering of Barchester Chronicles, the bishop laments of the Reverend Harding that “He has persistent bouts of Christianity.” Overtly or covertly, a world that has turned away from God rewards talking ‘sense’ about swallowing up vulnerable people’s property or exchanging pigeons for money in the forecourt. There is no pat on the back for displays of genuine empathy or mercy. 

In the absence of prayer and a Gospel-imbued vision, we devolve into factionalism pursued through committees, keeping busy, and looking important. The field hospital may have few patients but its administration continues apace. 

Pope Francis has often made the call for Parrhesia. More is done for souls when we can say “I don’t know,” rather than focus on running a slick campaign. Pastors do need to address social problems, but not in a partisan way for the sake of shoring up support from the troops. Only to the extent that we are prepared to cherish the truth can we ‘walk forward’ with others. 

Perhaps we feel ill-equipped. What we have available to us seems so little compared to what needs to be done.

Like the widow, we gather together what little we have left in faith and hope and share it with those nearest expecting the Faith to die with us. The prophet calls us to rely on the Lord. God will save us. At every Mass we lift up our hearts to Him and share in the one same sacrifice by which Jesus reconciled all of us to the Father. Then we are sent out to love and serve the Lord.

Dorothy Day shows us one way of living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati another. Both lived with the help of prayer and the sacraments. Create a space for heartfelt prayer. Even if it’s as small as two coins – so long as it’s everything. Contemplate the ‘atomic power’ of Jesus made small for us in the Host. 

“We do well to spend time in adoration before the Eucharist in order to contemplate God’s weakness. Let us make time for adoration. Let us allow Jesus the Living Bread to heal us of our self-absorption, open our hearts to self-giving, liberate us from our rigidity and self- concern, free us from the paralyzing slavery of defending our image, and inspire us to follow him wherever he would lead us.”

— Pope Francis, Hungary, 12 September 2021

Image: Adobe Stock.

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Bishop Richard Umbers, a New Zealand native, was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in Spain in 2002, and has been based in Sydney since 2003. As a priest, he served as the chaplain of several educational institutions. He was ordained a bishop in 2016 and now serves as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney. Bishop Richard is widely published in the area of philosophy, regularly addresses youth gatherings, has a large social media presence, and is the host of The Episcopal Podcast. He is proficient in Spanish, Italian, and Latin.

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