Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezekiel 36:23-28; Matthew 22:1-14)

Fr. Stanley Rother, an American missionary to Guatemala, was assasinated in 1981.  Two years ago, Pope Francis declared that Fr. Rother was killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith); that is, as a martyr which qualifies for him the title of “Blessed.” His story portrays atypical heroism and also a typical devotion on the part of the native peoples of Guatemala. 

Fr. Rother refused to leave the indigenous people of his village despite persistent death threats.  Eventually soldiers carried out the crime.  When Fr. Rother’s family came to take Fr. Rother’s body for burial in Oklahoma, the people resisted.  They claimed that he had been their priest and their protector.  Finally, the two sides compromised.  All of Fr. Rother’s body except his heart was returned to the United States.  The native people, however, retained his noble and loving heart in their church.

The reading from Ezekiel today promises that everyone’s heart will be purified like Fr. Rother’s.  Ezekiel says that God will replace the stony hearts of the people with tender hearts.  Then they will be able to give fitting homage to God and show loving care to one another.  He adds that this will be done by gathering the people in a new land and sprinkling them with clean water.

Ezekiel’s prophecy has been fulfilled in our time.  Jesus has renewed our hearts in Baptism (the sprinkling) which brings us into his Church (the new land).  Regrettably, however, some fail to follow him choosing instead self-gratification.  We can pray for them while we give thanks for our renewal in love.