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Responding to the First Move

August 20, 2020   Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Lectionary: 422)

Reading 1 EZ 36:23-28

Thus says the LORD:
I will prove the holiness of my great name, 
profaned among the nations, 
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
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.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your ancestors;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm   PS 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R.  (Ezekiel 36:25)  I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins.

Alleluia   PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, 
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

By Delaney Rayner 

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I navigated my spiritual director through the isolation I had felt over the past few months. “I just want to come home,” I spoke with grief. 

I believe that in every Christian’s life, there comes a point of accepting the faith as their own - truly receiving Jesus into their heart. I was raised Catholic, going to Mass and religious ed. class every Sunday, but my conversion, the moment I decided to give my life to Christ, came when I was a young teenager on a mission trip. 

For so long, I considered this trip filled with house restoration, community, and prayer the experience that changed my life. Afterwards, I decided to pursue Jesus myself, instead of being forced to by my parents.

I was finally choosing Him. I was initiating my faith.

I began going to Mass out of choice, not obligation. I prayed to get closer to the Lord, instead of to avoid guilt for not doing so. I started to read my Bible, research Church teaching, and involve myself in parish events. Only recently did I consider that my pursuit of Him wasn’t because of me, but because of Him. I was finally responding to His loving call after all the years. 

Jesus tells us that “many are invited, but few are chosen,” (MT 22:14). I thought I had first pursued the Lord, but it was really Jesus who had given me the invitation. Every movement I make towards Him isn’t an initiation, it's a response. Our worship is the only natural response to a Love like the crucifix. Jesus has always made the first move - when He died on the cross, when He created me, when He converted my heart back to Him as a teenager. 

I thought I first chose Him, but He is the one that inspired my faith. He invites me to love and know Him because He already loves and knows me. Every good thought, every good deed is initiated by God. Any good that comes from me is inspired by Him, regardless of whether I am humble enough to recognize that.

Without God’s initiation of a relationship with me, I would be lost.

So I thank Him for choosing me, loving me, knowing me, and creating me with purpose. He truly calls me by my name. He beckons me to know Him deeper. 

While I sat in that pew with my spiritual director feeling abandoned and exhausted, I knew that Jesus had invited me, but I longed to be chosen. He had been inviting me from the beginning.

“How can I come back?” I implored.

I was reminded Jesus, my King, my Lover, my Peace, truly invites me into His heart, my home. The only thing I need to do to be one of the chosen is to reply to His invitation with a wholehearted “yes.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Delaney Rayner is a Texas native and currently a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is studying Communication Arts and Theology with the hope of fulfilling God’s call for her through media and ministry. Delaney can be found crafting and nailing Pinterest DIYs, belting Taylor Swift’s “folklore” in her car, or praying the rosary in her travel hammock. Whatever she finds beautiful, she photographs - mostly her friends and sunsets. Delaney is told that she is a little too passionate about fonts and St. Pope JPII, but she doesn’t believe in the concept of being “too passionate” about anything that brings joy! She strives for an authentically-lived Resurrected life. Find her on Instagram here.

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