Events in the tiny suburb of Ferguson, Missouri this month have reverberated around the world. The issues laid bare in this circumstance shake us to the core of our identities as people of faith and Americans.
When asked, “How can I help?”, one common response from those on the ground there has been for prayer and presence. In my small way, I’ve offered my daily prayers for those in conflict in Ferguson, and for myself that I might live as I believe in the midst of those who don’t share my views on the issues. The starting point for my prayer has been the day’s scriptures, and this week their messages have been timely, indeed. There are no coincidences in God’s time!
This week’s scriptures from the Catholic Lectionary, whose selections are shared by many Christian churches as well, offer consolation and challenge in light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Below is a brief selection of quotes. As we ponder their wisdom, may we recognize when our own actions have not reflected our highest selves, turn to God for forgiveness and grace, find peace in the blessed assurance of God’s love, and act as people of that same love.
Sunday, August 17
Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
Psalm 67: 2-3
Monday, August 18
A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
Tuesday, August 19
Because you are haughty of heart,
you say, “A god am I!
I occupy a godly throne
in the heart of the sea!”—
And yet you are a man, and not a god,
however you may think yourself like a god.
Ezekiel 28: 1-2
Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Wednesday, August 20
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
Therefore, because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Thursday, August 21
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
Many are invited, but few are chosen.
Friday, August 22
Then he said to me:
Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:
Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you,
cover you with skin, and put spirit in you
so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.
I prophesied as I had been told,
and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise;
it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.
I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them,
and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.
Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man,
and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD:
From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
Ezekiel 37: 5-14
They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits he rescued them.
And he led them by a direct way
to reach an inhabited city.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”