Gospel Reflections

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:21-27

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Marna Rogers

Published: August 31, 2014

Read Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciplesthat he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatlyfrom the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,and be killed and... Read More…


What can one give in exchange for one’s life?

As I prepared to reflect for Glimpses of God’s Goodness for this Sunday in August, two experiences came to mind. One occurred in Allston on a cold early morning about 2:00A.M. in January of this year. A man who had been chronically homeless, perhaps drawn to the noise of a party in one of the enclaves of student housing in the area, had approached someone for food or drink. Two football players at the gathering accosted him on the sidewalk, beating and kicking him. A young woman, described as diminutive in stature, came upon the altercation, and immediately put herself on top of the man, now on the sidewalk, covering him with her body to protect him from the blows of the feet and fists of his attackers. She was presuming, she has said, that they would not do the same to her. She lay with him, cradling his head, midst the blood, until emergency responders arrived.

To this day she has refused to identify herself. The victim, suffering a profound brain injury, recalls nothing of the attack. He has since found housing, and he is no longer living on the streets.

The court case has begun. Boston College had immediately suspended their student. He remains off campus until his situation is resolved in the courts. The other, from Marist College, had left his campus before January.

Recently the Editorial Page of “The Boston Globe” extolled the young woman’s bravery and compassion. (THE BOSTON GLOBE, April 28, 2014, “Heroic Bystander: Stepping into the Void”)

As this young woman had begun that January day, I am sure she did not envision how it would end. Who knows what fear she had as she approached the confrontation. What motivated her beyond her willingness to put herself in harm’s way for another person?

Some may see religious motivation. Some may judge her to be fearless in walking the street at night in a neighborhood she may/may not know well. What was the something burned in her heart (Jeremiah)? What had transformed her as she entered into her adulthood (Romans)? Maybe those who know her best would be amazed at what she had done.

What stopped the young men from hurting her also? Did her fearlessness shock them? Did her quiet courage and fierce determination to protect forever change her?

On retreat in February, Sandra Schneiders, in Buying the Field, had challenged me to consider that the original sin was fear. I reasoned that considering how to live life open and ready for each day has its own measure of courage. As I walked later that afternoon in an area where homeless men and women found safe spaces near a park, one man was shouting to anyone who would listen of the violence he would do. A woman nearby had frozen in place as he ranted. I did, too. I do not know what I would have done (fear) had he moved to hurt her. I want to believe I would have/could have assisted…but I could feel the fear rise in me. Spent, he left the area, and the fragile peace resumed, and Sandra’s words took on another life measure for me.

In Matthew, Jesus seemed so clear-eyed about what lay ahead for him in Jerusalem. Yet fear had to have been very much a part of the experiences of the disciples, and surely Jesus himself, as what he envisioned unfolded. But he demonstrated for his disciples the internal challenge, weighing choices and the ways that moved forward his clarity about what his Mission demanded.

What can one give in exchange for one’s life? This young woman has taught me that her measure of courage may be how she lives her life each day, or the circumstance of that night drew from her what she did not know she possessed.

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