Marching Through Life
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings. Note: More guides are available under “Don’t Miss.”
Sunday, Oct. 3, is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The U.S. bishops promote it as Respect Life Sunday.
It’s a little dated as a song, but it’s a nice little history lesson. In 1974, Seals and Croft recorded a song called “Unborn Child.” Some of the lyrics: “Oh unborn child, if you only knew just what your momma was plannin’ to do. … Oh tiny bud, that grows in the womb, only to be crushed before you can bloom. Mama stop! Turn around; go back; think it over. … Oh no momma, just let it be. / You’ll never regret it, just wait and see. / Think of all the great ones who gave everything / That we might have life here, so please bear the pain.”
For the full lyrics, search online for: Seals and Croft Unborn Child. Search the same thing at YouTube to see a 1974 performance of the song. The hippie vibe is a reminder that, in the 1970s, when peace and love messages were ringing in the air, self-described liberals were often pro-life. Politicians like Teddy Kennedy and Jesse Jackson and Al Gore started out pro-life.
It was obvious then that those who wanted to stand up for the “little guy” had to stand up for the unborn. Those dreams of love and peace seemed to fade and end in disillusionment. But those of us who are still standing up for life are proving that the Church’s authentic message of love and peace has staying power.
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10
There are plenty of high points in the Christian life. Catholics can experience these in the liturgy: soaring hymns, sacramental victories against the prince of darkness, triumphant retelling of God’s great deeds.
But the reason we make a big deal out of these is that we need pick-me-ups in the normal course of events. The Christian life isn’t a series of ascents onto the gold-medal podium, but a long march through the field. Today’s Gospel reminds us of that.
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’?”
When we do special things at work, we expect some credit. When we do good deeds for a neighbor, we know we’ll get a hearty pat on the back.
But when we do our Christian duty, we had better not expect any special rewards. We’re doing it for something greater. Living a Christian life means resetting priorities so that God and unseen things are first, and that means resetting expectations so that eternal and intangible rewards are good enough.
The first reading describes how hard that is in real life with regard to prayer. On Respect Life Sunday we can relate to the prophet who prays for an end to violence and sees the violence continue without much of a change. God tells him to wait. This is a first obstacle to the Christian life: The Lord doesn’t seem to listen. But, as the prophet explains, we often see in retrospect that the Lord did listen, and answered. Our job is not to be impatient and rash while we wait.
From prison, Paul gives us the credo of those who do their duty, without much glory, and wait.
“God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord … but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
God isn’t a preschool teacher giving us gold stars and saying “You’re so special!” every time we do what we’re supposed to. God is that almighty doer of deeds that we love to celebrate with great hymns. If you really want to follow him, be ready to march behind him up a hill.
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.