Sunday Lectionary Notes

Religious Freedom Week 2024: Called to the Fullness of Dignity

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 23, 2024


Reading 1—Job 38:1, 8-11
Responsorial—Psalm 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31 
Reading 2—2 Corinthians 5:14-17 
Gospel—Mark 4:35-41 

Transformation of Vision 

  • St. Paul announces that with the resurrection of Christ, a new creation has come into being.  One implication of this new creation is that all who have been baptized have been transformed by the grace of God.  In a sense, this is not a moral exhortation, but a declaration of reality with moral implications. 
  • Christ’s self-offering on the Cross is the culmination of a life of self-gift.  As Pope Benedict XVI teaches in his volumes on Jesus of Nazareth, Christ’s whole existence was and is one of being for others.  His life is one of total self-giving love.  As love is stronger than death, so Christ’s love, both for his Father and for the world, overcomes the grave. 
  • In the sacramental life of the Church, we are incorporated into the life of Christ.  Therefore, we are called to live not for ourselves but for others.  This is what Christian charity is all about.   
  • As we grow more fully into the life of Christ, our view of the world is radically changed.  We “regard no one according to the flesh.”  As some translations put it, we do not regard others “from a human point of view.”  Elsewhere in 2 Corinthians, St. Paul describes the world of the flesh, the world that we see with a human vision, as one that is as passing away, whereas we live according to faith and put our hope in things that are eternal.  As we grow in faith and charity, we come to see more fully the dignity of others for whom Christ offered up his own life. 
  • This transformation of vision is what had led Christians to develop institutions such as hospitals and places of hospitality for migrants.  We do not regard the sick according to the flesh.  We do not regard the refugee from a human point of view.  This vision is what leads us to bear witness to the gospel in the workaday world, and to treat all people, including those with whom we disagree, with respect.  During Religious Freedom Week, we ask God for the grace to be impelled by the love of Christ. 

Faith in Troubled Times 

  • The first reading, Psalm, and gospel all refer to storms.  This is an apt picture of the time we live in today.  Contemporary culture and political life can feel chaotic, like a “widening gyre.”  In this situation, we increasingly see our friends, neighbors, and perhaps even ourselves grasp for something firm by latching onto irrational ideologies and bizarre cultural programs, often presented by social media figures who exploit today’s confusion for “engagement.”   
  • Whether it’s increasing polarization and political rancor, or exhausted apathy, today’s political culture evinces a widespread abandonment of the work to grasp truth.  The storm has grown too strong, the waves breaking over the boat, and the constant struggle it takes to grow in the capacity to exercise sound judgment becomes too difficult.  It is often easier to identify oneself with a movement than to do the hard work of continual discernment. 
  • The disciples are questioned by Jesus about their faith.  At the same time, they show us how we might respond in our troubled times when we may lack faith ourselves.  They cry out to Jesus, and he responds by quelling the storm. Similarly, while Job does not understand why he is suffering, he clings to the Lord, who then speaks from the storm.  In both of these stories, in the midst of chaos, God speaks to his people.  The disciples do not abandon the ship, and Job does not curse God. By holding onto the Lord himself, these witnesses from Scripture show us what faith in troubled times looks like. 
  • We can also look to Christian witnesses today.  Our Christian brothers and sisters in some regions of India have been undergoing real persecution at the hands of Hindu nationalists for decades.  In the past year, that persecution has been violent.  Also, many of our fellow Christians live in countries with unjust blasphemy laws, which punish believers for their profession of faith.  While we look to Christ for strength in our own situation, we also pray in solidarity with our fellow members of the body of Christ who endure terrible hardships for their steadfast faith in the Lord.  During this Religious Freedom Week, we ask God for the gift of faith, for ourselves and for all Christians throughout the world. 

The Power of God 

  • When God responds to Job, he does not immediately give Job comfort, but rather reminds Job of who he is.  He says that he sets the limits to the sea, that he commands it and it obeys.  The Psalm echoes this language.  The commands of the Lord raise up a storm and wind, and when his people call to him in distress, the Lord has power to calm the seas. 
  • By putting these readings together in the Lectionary, the Church shows us so clearly that Jesus is the Incarnate Lord.  God showed himself to Israel as the one who rules the seas, and the Gospel shows that Jesus is identified with this God.  Christ is the Lord. 
  • We can have faith in troubled times, because we trust that the Lord rules all creation and is guiding everything benevolently towards its end.  While we sometimes cannot see where things are going, faith in the God who can bring order out of chaos compels us to continue walking the path that leads to virtue and union with God. 
  • Since Christ is king, then no natural attachment or secular ideology should ever make ultimate claims on us.  God is God and no other—including the government.  Our allegiance is to God as we bear witness to the truth about marriage as the union of one man and one woman; the truth about the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death; the truth about the equal dignity of all people, regardless of their race, class, or nationality.  These are natural truths, available to all who sincerely seek the truth. 
  • Jesus calls us in a special way to care for the vulnerable, including the sick and the migrant.  When these ministries are called into question, Christian charity itself is called into question.  During this Religious Freedom Week, we remember that Jesus, who calls us to serve all people, is the Lord; as our ministries head into the storms of a culture that often refuses to recognize the fullness of human dignity, Christ is the one with the power to command the waves to be still. 

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