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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Sept. 9, 2012

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

September 9, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Cycle B. Readings:

1) Isaiah 35:4-7a

Psalm 146:7-10

2) James 2:1-5

Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

St. Lawrence was a third-century deacon and martyr who was charged with the ministry of assistance to the poor and needy and served under Pope Sixtus II during a period of great persecution. As the pontiff was led away to his execution, he comforted the grieving Lawrence with the assurance that soon he, too, would be joining him in glory.

Lawrence responded by selling and giving away even more of the church's material resources. At this, the prefect of Rome greedily demanded that Lawrence bring to him all of the church's treasure, assuming that there was still more wealth hidden away. Lawrence immediately gathered together all the poor and sick of Rome, showed them to the prefect and declared, "This is the church's treasure."

The result: Lawrence was literally grilled to death, praying that Rome and the entire world would be converted to faith in Jesus.

Today's readings abound with references to the Lord's favor demonstrated on behalf of the poor, lame, deaf, blind, the fatherless and the widowed, affirming God's natural disposition to show preferential treatment to anyone who is oppressed and "bowed down."

One could interpret this to mean that all of us are in some way poor, needy or blind, whether materially or spiritually. While this is not necessarily false, Scripture is unmistakable in its meaning. "Poor" means lacking the basic necessities of life. "Blind" means the debilitating loss of sight. "Oppression" means to be abused by another's brutality. "Widowhood" and "fatherlessness" mean the loss of needed support.

The evil of human suffering shows no partiality; it is often cruelly random in its choice of victims.

Perhaps this is precisely why God's partiality, demonstrated in Jesus' compassionate act of healing a deaf man, is so remarkably powerful and transformative. It is a decisive, practical response to evil and suffering, a vindication of those who are unable to help themselves. According to James, it's a partiality completely unlike the distinctions typically made by human "judges with evil designs."

Lawrence understood this principle very well and generously and courageously acted upon it. He also understood that if there are to be "streams in the desert" of a suffering world, and if all humanity is truly to know Jesus, those who are afflicted must experience the same kind of preferential compassion from his followers.


Whom has God placed in your path who is poor, needy, downtrodden or helpless? How will you respond to that person, according to Jesus' example of preferential compassion?


"Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?" -- James 2:5


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