Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today, we invite you to explore forgiveness and sacramentality, and practical embodiment with the help of M. Shawn Copeland and Enfleshing Freedom; embody Catholic Social Teaching’s emphasis on sacramental solidarity; and embody these ideas with the help of Appetite for Change in Minneapolis.
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Yet you say, ‘The way of YHWH is not just!’
Listen, you Israelites! Am I unjust?
It is your ways that are unjust.
If the just turn from their integrity, take to evil ways, and die,
it is because of their evil ways that they die.
If sinners give up their evil ways and do what is just and right,
they preserve their life.
They acknowledged their sins
and turned their backs on all their wrongdoing,
and they will live.”
If our life in Christ means anything to you—
if love, or the Spirit that we have in common,
or any tenderness and sympathy can persuade you at all—
then be united in your convictions and united in your love,
with a common purpose and a common mind.
That is the one thing that would make me completely happy.
There must be no competition among you,
no conceit, but everybody is to be humble:
value others over yourselves,
each of you thinking of the interests of others before your own.
Your attitude must be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Christ, though in the image of God,
did not deem equality with God
something to be clung to—
but instead became completely empty
and took on the image of oppressed humankind.
Born into the human condition,
found in the likeness of a human being.
Jesus was thus humbled—
obediently accepting death, even death on a cross!
Because of this, God highly exalted Christ
and gave to Jesus the name above every other name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend
in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth,
and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God:
Jesus Christ reigns supreme!
Jesus put this parable to the chief priests and elders of the people,
“What do you think?
There was a landowner who had two children.
The landowner approached the elder and said,
‘My child, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
This first child replied, ‘No, I will not,’
but afterwards regretted it and went.
The landowner then came to the second child and said the same thing.
The second child said in reply, ‘I am on my way,’
but never went.
Which of the two did what was wanted?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them,
“The truth is, tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kindom of God before you.
When John came walking on the road of justice,
you didn’t believe him,
but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that, you didn’t repent and believe.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
The readings this week grapple with self-examination as a tool to recognize sinfulness as the fruits of complacency and ignorance. Within structures of power, sinfulness results in marginalization.
Here we can turn to Shawn Copeland to help us understand how to better combat marginalization. In her book Enfleshing Freedom, Copeland exemplifies how we must reflect on our place within the world and its power structures, and use our positions to help overcome systems that marginalize people. This includes embodying solidarity with those pushed to the margins, which is shown in the act and theological reality of the Eucharist. Embodied solidarity is Eucharistic, and thus demands we change our daily actions. “Embodying Christ is a discipleship” that forces us to realize that our becoming a people and a church is a constant process guided by our belief in God and the reasons we choose to strive to live in a way prescribed by Christ (Copeland 127). In this constant becoming we must examine power structures around us and practice material and Eucharistic (embodied) solidarity with the marginalized. This sacramental and Eucharistic solidarity conditions us to “pulse with new life, for [the] Eucharist is the heart of the Christian community,” and without it, there is no hope for liberation (127).
This Psalm calls for Forgiveness of past transgressions in order to grow in the love and joy of humanity – for others and for self, thus treating others as the “incarnation of divine compassion” (87). Committing oneself to liberation from past transgressions and to freedom of authenticity and flourishing has the potential to create communities of compassion and joy. We ought to understand oppression as a point of departure from grace, and that practicing grace establishes the walls of oppression as weak while we choose to live as an incarnate spirit (91). Through grace, we remain in relation with other incarnate beings, emulating the reflection of God. Therefore, let this passage be a practice of conscious relatedness to others. Relatedness is essential to being human, and only in great love and forgiveness can a community flourish. Let us realize our past transgressions, and ask for the forgiveness of our kin. Then, leading with love, engage in community with them, as God intends.
This prayer of thanksgiving in the Second Reading is an embodiment of the sacramental action of recognizing the human body and the symbol of what we are as human beings: receiving the Eucharist. The prayer is a celebration of humanity, created in the Image of God, and calls for inherent love, care, and grace that knows no bounds. “Sacramentality signifies the real-symbolic unity between what we are as humans…” (125). St. Paul is right; it is just to be confident in the joyful prayer for humanity. In this practice, we embody the Eucharist, a sacramental practice that ties us together by our very essence – a heartfelt response to historic and contemporary oppression that snuffs out the dignity of a person. A joyful celebration of persons through prayer enables personal, intimate encounters with the practice of solidarity with neighbors, and calls for a humbling of oneself in order to interrupt the structures of violence and oppression. Further, the sacramental celebration identifies a constant state of becoming that is the evolution of rejoicing in the human person. One cannot simultaneously celebrate and mock humanity. Leading through joy, as pointed out by Paul in this reading, testifies to the affection that Christ embodies, and fulfills the fruits of righteousness that we receive in the sacrament of Eucharistic solidarity.
This Gospel tells of the practicality of committed, practical embodiment over empty pledge. It shows the importance of living as an incarnate spirit over the verbal confirmation to a meaningless promise. The one, who refuses a commitment, then takes time to discern the importance of a task is willing to grapple with the moral conversation of “bad faith” and living in flexible, thoughtful environments (92), whereas the other who is eager to commit for one’s own sake is acting in performativity and dispassionately takes on the structures of the WORD. If, therefore, actions are, above all, the result of discernment, let the work we do be uncertain. It is clear that if one leads with love and acumen they will realize a constant state of becoming, and will mold their actions and movements into progression, against oppression. Matthew explains we have been shown the way to lead through righteousness, but often chose to ignore it for personal gain. He calls for self-reflection that we all may be like those who have contemplated their lives, and conduct ourselves in a way established by goodness.
Shawn Copeland is an American Catholic theologian who centers her work on “theological and philosophical anthropology, embodiment, political theology, theological methods; African and African–derived religious and cultural experience and African-American intellectual history.” She currently teaches at Boston College. Reference: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/mcas/departments/theology/people/retired-faculty/m-shawn-copeland.html
Commentary by Suntina Spehar
Engage Catholic Social Teaching
The Social Teaching of Rights and Responsibilities recognizes that human rights are to be assumed as applicable to every person. Creating a world in which all people have inalienable rights that are fulfilled is part of the state of “becoming” that the Catholic church works towards. Humanity holds an obligation to uplift those who are marginalized and to advocate that the rights of each person are upheld to the highest degree, so that individuals are taken care of and may flourish.
The readings this week call for the celebration of humanity through joy, and the vocation to engage in sacramental solidarity with those who are marginalized. It is the responsibility of those who are able and positioned in power structures, as prescribed by Catholic Social Teaching, to break down the walls of oppression, and hold the systems accountable, that inhibit the rights of individuals to be met. Only then can human dignity be protected. Until then, we must realize the consistent call to action that motivates the progression towards becoming communities of the embodied Eucharistic practice of leading with joy into the righteousness of committing to communal flourishing.
A Contemplative Exercise
We all encounter difficulty every day, in the climates we live in, the people we interact with and the jobs we do. Disagreement, as well as difficulty, is inevitable. The next time you find yourself in a difficult or disagreeable state, reflect on what is making this occurrence so painful or frustrating. Name the frustration, then make an effort to engage with the other person in a way that is appropriate to both of you – but remain silent until you feel the initial negative feeling dwindle as you remember the humanity of the other. We, like many other subjects and entities, are in our own states of becoming. We must use our disagreements and difficulties as motivators to embody the WORD.
Caveat: Never force yourself or another to remain in a dangerous or discriminatory situation, in any frame. This practice must be done in a safe space where both individuals feel it is an exercise of love.
There is no one better to emulate what it means to foster a state of becoming than M. Shawn Copeland, who is known for her work in systematic, political, and public theology, and African American Catholicism. Previously an ordained sister, she has a history of protesting injustice within her own faith’s organizations. Her work centers around the work that needs to be done within the Catholic Church and its racism, and focuses on those who experience oppression, violence, and injustice on the basis of race, sexuality, and gender. She is the embodiment of holding one accountable by leading with love in order to foster a community of righteousness for those who ought to be entitled to dignity and grace.
Appetite for Change, a foundation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an organization whose mission is to bring people together on the foundation of food. They name food “as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis,” which is historically an impoverished community. They aim to create job opportunities, implement social change, and improve health and diet through food education, social empowerment, and principles of trust. By bringing individuals together to cook, eat, and grow food, strings of community are created and maintained on an intimate level. These communities are flourishing under the premise of care and appreciation for others, a true embodiment of eucharistic practices.
From Marti Leroux: “This is a painting in mixed media on paper, with blues that are calming & corals & pinks. “The State of Becoming” is about being your best YOU! At any moment you can transform yourself to be more of who you truly are. My art is soulful and it is meant to touch your heart & soul!”