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Molly CahillOctober 25, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” (Lk 12:41)

When reading or listening to Scripture, have you ever felt like the word of God was addressed to you personally? Has the message of the day ever been so specific to your present circumstances that it felt uncanny, even a little spooky?

In some of the moments when I’ve experienced this, I’ve walked away feeling really good. I’ve felt held, seen and understood by God; it’s been like a message came to find me exactly when I needed it, and now I can walk forward with a sense of peace, knowing exactly what I need to do.

But if I can speak honestly, there are times when my reaction has been just the opposite. A reading feels almost too apropos. I hear so clearly where God is speaking in my current situation—and I don’t like it. Maybe I know that the way I’ve behaved is wrong, or that what I have to do next will be hard, or that that thing I want really badly isn’t meant to be. I feel a little sting; I’m taking things personally.

In these moments, it’s much easier to look away, to zone out and to depersonalize the readings’ message. If I pay no mind to the call this reading may have specifically for me, I can generalize—and thereby dilute—its directions. When it has to do with everyone, it has nothing to do with me.

If I pay no mind to the call this reading may have specifically for me, I can generalize—and thereby dilute—its directions. When it has to do with everyone, it has nothing to do with me.

Now, of course, God’s word does have to do with everyone, always. There is wide-ranging wisdom in Scripture, and the same reading that resonates with my situation could also speak to many others. So how do I know which one to prioritize: the personal or the universal?

Peter interrupts Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel reading to ask him this very question. As Jesus warns the disciples to be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man, Peter jumps in: “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” (Lk 12:41) Is this a message for the disciples in particular or for all people? I suppose, like me, Peter is asking: What does this mean for Peter—and what hard thing might it put on Peter’s spiritual to-do list?

Jesus’ response is not particularly direct. He doesn’t say, “Oh, this is about you, so pay attention.” Instead, he throws a question back at Peter: “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so” (Lk 12:42-43). In this answer, there’s a hint of “If not you…well, then who else?”

As great as a universal message can sound, sometimes we can use it to hide—to get in line behind everyone else so we don’t feel a sense of urgency, or the need to respond right now. If we think about social justice as everyone’s job, that’s great; it should be. But if I focus primarily on how it’s everyone’s, how seriously do I take it as mine?

When I hear God speaking, may I always take it personally. May I let it sting, or frighten, or disappoint, if that’s what it does. On the flip side, may I let it encourage me or comfort me or calm me down, since God often offers that kind of word, too. But no matter what, it is personal. And please, God, let me feel that.

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