The readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time reveal how human limitations help us discover the power of God in our lives. The word of God is the medicine we need to receive. Too often we get stuck in focusing on weaknesses, our own or others.
The word of God is the medicine to take our eyes off of our weakness and invest our energy in meeting the limitations others experience in their lives. When we reach out to others in their need, God breaks into the relationship and gives us what we choose to share with others. What appears to be an extreme sacrifice becomes an open door to God’s love, which is what our hearts are really crying out for in the first place.
In the first reading from Isaiah, God tells us: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” What appears to be a burden to us is in reality a great gift. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”
When we enter into God’s attitude toward the wounded and the broken, God’s goodness pours into our hearts. Our hunger for the infinite is re-affirmed. Our longing for an infinitely good God is re-enkindled. Every time our finiteness reaches out to the infinite, we become less finite! Every time we open our wounded hearts to reach out to others to help them, we are touching the ever loving, the always forgiving, the always caring God.
The passage continues, “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and He will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”
What the prophet is really saying is “If you stop focusing on your own weaknesses and the weaknesses of others, your gloom will come to an end because you have entered into God’s infinite love for you. The simple formula is this: simply allow God’s infinite love into your gloom, and it will disappear like the gloom of night disappears with the rising of the sun!”
St. Paul gives us a concrete example of the above. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
When we embrace our weaknesses, God comes through with a “demonstration of Spirit and power.” As Paul tells us elsewhere, “When I am weak, I am strong.”
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us we are powerful, because we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If you were not the salt of the earth or the light of the world, what is currently happening in our federal government wouldn’t bother us. Our leaders all need our prayerful intercession. God is looking for a good number of people in our nation who have faith, to intercede for our political leaders. They need the light of the world to help them find the light.
The quickest way to quell any anger in my heart is to intercede relentlessly. That is the way to peaceful living in the midst of angry turmoil.
In short, what I am really saying is that as soon as I allow Jesus to enter my anger, the darkness goes away, and I am walking in the light. Our nation is crying out for salvation, and you and I can enter that cry by pleading for all those hurting from their own limitations and further fueled by the limitations of others.
You and I are called the light of the world and the salt of the earth. As you and I allow God to purify our salt and light, we allow God to enter into man’s conflagration and confusion, and when God hears the cry of the poor, then humanity is relieved of its burden of overwhelming darkness.
We can’t experience the inner light and inner peace without coming aside daily to rest in silently meditating on God’s word and then pouring out our hearts for His transformation. I need not cloud my inner world with judgment of others. God is much better at judging than I am. Whatever I think is the gift of discernment too often turns out to be merely the gift of suspicion.
As a country, we are reaching a great turning point. Without God to enter into our poverty, we are lost. The more we become aware of our collective weaknesses, the sooner we will realize that we can get on to God’s bandwagon and have fun.