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Reflection –Friday, July 19, 2013
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 78
Gospel: Matthew 13:47-53


We live in a time of transition. When I entered in 1984, you told me you had been in transition for twenty years or more, and we are still in a time of transition. That’s a lo – – – – ong time! The trouble with a time of transition is that we live in the present, and we are pulled both by the past and by the future.


That’s why I love that our scripture contains both our first reading from Isaiah 43, and the responsorial psalm 78. In the Psalm we hear:


we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
                    and the wonders that he has done.


…that the next generation might know them,
                    the children yet unborn,
and rise up and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God.


And then in Isaiah 43 we hear:
Do not remember the former things,
                   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
                   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?


So what are supposed to do, remember or not remember? Well, one thing we need to remember is that our God is not normally a God of either/or; our God is a God of both/and. When we appear to have a contradiction, we are usually dealing with a both/and situation.


We are told to remember the past, the mighty deeds of the Lord in the history of our people and in our own personal history, so that we come to know how God works among us. If we do this, we will be able to recognize God at work among us now.


But we are not to cling to the works of the past, the mighty deeds God did among us in the “good old days.” If we cling in that way, we will lament the present because we will not recognize God still at work among us now.


So what I see in these readings is a call to balance: remember, but do not cling. And that is the message of the Gospel. Jesus repeatedly says that he comes not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. And yet he was among us doing something new. His saying about the wise scribe who is instructed in the ways of the kingdom of heaven is that he “is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”


As I was preparing this reflection, the Serenity Prayer came to mind; you probably know it, but it’s printed in your worship aids just in case. The key line for me is the last line: “and the wisdom to know the difference.” That is often a good tag to add to a situation where there appears to be an “either/or.” 


In the case of our situation today of living in a time of transition, perhaps rather than praying for serenity and courage — which are good things, and we could pray for them too — we might want to pray:


God, grant us gratitude for the things of the past,
          for the events, the gifts, the people, the ministries, the guidance
          from you and from so many others; and
grant us vision for our call to the future,
          for our sponsored ministries, for our retirement resources,
          for our leadership and administration;
and grant us wisdom, not so much to know the difference,
          but to see you working in our past and present and future,
          and to know that we don’t have to choose
          between gratitude and vision,
          because you are not a God of either/or,
          but a God of both/and,
          and honoring and understanding our past
          will lead us faithfully into the future.


by Sister Gladys Guenther, SHF