Sunday, July 3, 2022 - Scripture Reflection

Scripture Reflection

Jul 01
Sunday, July 3, 2022

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Isaiah 66:10-14c

Responsorial Psalm
Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

Reading II
Galatians 6:14-18

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 

This weekend we hear a prophecy from Isaiah about the city of Jerusalem being a mother.  Like many prophecies, the language can seem a little odd and even shocking.  (Note: this was part of their purpose as prophets – to shock people into paying attention!)  It contains these prayers: “Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts” and “As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap.”  I pray this once every four weeks in the Divine Office and I’m still a little uncomfortable with the language it uses.

      This very intimate language seems odd enough when describing a human relationship, but it seems very much out of place when describing a city.  When I think about it though, speaking of a place being a mother is not an unusual thought in human history.  Consider that our language contains phrases like “mother nature” and “motherland”.  In the “nature vs. nurture” discussion of what forms us as people, we know that our place of birth has a significant impact on who we are and who we become.  For the people of Israel, this idea carried even more weight because they understood the temple in Jerusalem to be God’s dwelling place in the world.  This holy city was the source of God’s love and mercy, care and compassion for His people.  After the exile, the people felt “orphaned” by their God and, although he never truly abandoned them, their return to Jerusalem signified a rebirth for them, followed by the need for motherly care.  “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem shall you find your comfort.”  In light of this, it seems appropriate to attach such tender language to the people of Israel’s mother city.

      For us as Christians, we understand the Old Testament Jerusalem to be a foreshadowing of the New Testament Church.  Any time the Bible speaks of Jerusalem, we consider that it refers in some way to the Church. This means that, just as the Israelites spoke of Jerusalem as “mother”, we do the same for our Church.  If God is our Father, and the Church is the Bride of Christ, it makes a lot of sense to speak of the Church as our Mother.  I hear Bishop Kulick often use this phrase: Holy Mother Church.  Why?  I think Pope Francis explained it well in a homily on September 15, 2015:

The Church is our mother. She is our "Holy Mother Church" that is generated through our baptism, makes us grow up in her community and has that motherly attitude, of meekness and goodness: Our Mother Mary and our Mother Church know how to caress their children and show tenderness. To think of the Church without that motherly feeling is to think of a rigid association, an association without human warmth, an orphan.

      This is important, because often people see our Church only as this rigid association because they are on the outside looking in.  To the outsider, Jerusalem likely only looked like a large, fortified city with thick walls and a temple in the middle.  It was to the people of Israel that she was a mother.  

      This prophecy from Isaiah challenges us to ponder in what ways we as a church can be more motherly.  Are we people of welcome and encouragement?   Of meekness and goodness?  A community that brings comfort and peace to those who feel lost or orphaned by our world?  Do those who experience the Catholic Church of Greensburg see us more as a rigid association or more as a compassionate mother?

      Then, on a personal level, are we ourselves able to recognize our Church as our mother, ourselves as nurslings who depend upon Her for nourishment, and Her sacraments as our mother’s milk?

By: Father William J. Lechnar, Pastor / Holy Family Parish, Seward