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Colleen DulleJune 07, 2023
open book on glass tablePhoto by Aaron Burden, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

I’m going to be honest with you: I have no idea what to do with today’s readings. In the first, we hear about two people who have become suicidal after having to endure abuse. The first is the prophet Tobit, who is weighed down with guilt over his sins and those of his ancestors, and also because he has “heard insulting calumnies.” The second is a woman named Sarah, who has been married seven times, but all of her husbands have been killed off by an evil man before any of the marriages could be consummated. She hears “insulting calumnies” too, when people start gossiping about how she must be the one killing these men.

Sarah’s situation parallels that of the woman the Sadducees ask Jesus about in today’s Gospel: She was married seven times, and the Sadducees want to trick Jesus into saying which man she will be married to in the afterlife. Jesus responds that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and quotes a scripture saying, “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage”—a statement that doesn’t quite sit right with me, as someone who imagines my grandparents spending eternity together and hopes for the same for myself and my husband.

How do I approach these readings? With confusion and a bit of frustration, honestly. When I read them, I wonder, “What does this have to do with how God loves us?”

I texted a couple of priest friends for advice on what to do with these readings, since I figured my journalism degree wasn’t going to cut it here. One suggested that I talk about how we are all like the Sadducees sometimes, trying to force God to take one side or another in our polarized debates, and how God refuses to take sides. Another suggested I talk about how I approach readings that are difficult or that I don’t connect with. I’ll take a crack at that, but feel free to meditate on the first suggestion if it speaks to you more.

How do I approach these readings? With confusion and a bit of frustration, honestly. When I read them, I wonder, “What does this have to do with how God loves us?”

Just before I read these readings, I was sitting in my baby son’s room, watching him sleep. It was the closest to contemplative prayer that I’ve come in a long time. I was overwhelmed by love looking at him, and I quickly became even more overwhelmed when I realized that that is how God has been looking at me, at each of us, forever.

What do these readings have to say about that kind of overwhelming love that God has for us? A few things, I now realize: First, that God hears our cries, like those of Tobit and Sarah. He wants to comfort us just as much as I want to comfort my son when he cries. And second, that, like my friend said, God refuses to take sides. He even loves our enemies the way I love my son! What’s more, he challenges us to do the same.

(By the way, an upcoming episode of America’s fantastic new podcast, “Preach,” deals with this challenge of how to approach difficult readings! You can listen here and subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss the episode when it comes out.)

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