I am heeding you By Beth DeCristofaro
Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?” Then Abraham said to God, “Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!” God replied: “Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him. I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly. (Genesis 17:17-20)
And then a leper approached, did (Jesus) homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” (Matthew 8:2-3)
Jesus, my friend, prepare my heart to receive your surprising gifts. And soften my heart to share them among all your friends.
The readings today amplify God’s generous work in the world. Both Abraham and the leper are given new lives and new community, surprise gifts. I am touched by their approach to the divine – gentle skepticism? Push back? Yet hope and yearning. Divinity assures each that they are heard.
In other Scripture passages, people respond with what appears to be skepticism, and God’s answer is not acceptance and generosity. King Ahaz famously answers God’s offer to “ask for a sign” by saying I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test (Isaiah 7:12). The Pharisees and Sadducees devise questions to trap Jesus, who rightly points out their duplicity. God sees into our hearts and responds to Truth, not to words. And God wants our hearts to be one with Jesus, one with the Word.
In his Angelus address June 20, Pope Francis said, “Faith begins from believing that we are not enough for ourselves, from feeling in need of God. When we overcome the temptation to close ourselves off, when we overcome the false religiosity that does not want to disturb God, when we cry out to him, he can work wonders in us. It is the gentle and extraordinary power of prayer, which works miracles.[i]”
In believing that we are not enough for ourselves but that we first and foremost need God, our hearts become open to God’s surprising gifts. And also, our hearts become primed to expect surprising gifts for all those God loves. We no longer need to categorize or judge ourselves or others.
What does my heart hold as Jesus approaches me? Do I cling to narrow definitions of myself and others? How can I better invite and accept Jesus’ cleansing? God is heeding me.
[i] “Journey with the Pope”, Missio, June 24, 2021