23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time reflection by Nicole Zenner

The readings this Sunday represent how we should be living our life everyday – boldly and with joy. The four words from Isaiah in the first reading are a wakeup call. “Be strong, fear not!” Wow, what a proclamation! What a call to action! I can honestly tell you that during this pandemic there have been more days where I have not felt strong and more days where I have felt fear. Distancing from friends and family, being unemployed for a year, anxiety about my health and everyone I cared for, uncertain about the future, witnessing injustice, the list goes on. But this reading from Isaiah is a clear reminder that God is with us – always and in all ways. When the upheaval of life, much less life within a pandemic, gets to be too much, we must remind ourselves of this.

Taking the time to quiet our minds and hearts to pray is a good way to start. By continuing to put God at the center of our lives, our fears will diminish. Our faith, our strength, will grow. I would argue that as your faith grows, your joy grows too. You will want to tell everyone you know about your relationship with God. And that’s what we are called to do.

But do you ever find yourself not listening to God? Do you have trouble articulating your thoughts about your faith? Is your heart closed to loving God, yourself, and your neighbor? While we may not be exactly like the deaf man in Mark’s Gospel, we may have more in common with him than we think. If you answered yes to any of those three questions, you need Jesus to help open you. Another bold proclamation is shared today, “Be opened!” It’s a call to listen to Jesus. It’s a call to use our words and deeds to spread the Good News. It’s a call to open our heart to the love that God has waiting for us. How awesome is that?

Think about the last time that you received such good news that you couldn’t help telling everyone you met about it. Was it acing a test, a new job, a marriage proposal, the birth of a new baby, or retirement? Do you ever feel this way about your relationship with Jesus? Our call is to be a people where our hearts are on fire for Jesus. Where we are bold in our love for one another. Where our actions and words are uplifting, consoling, and humble. Where we joyfully live out each day. While we were not lucky enough to meet Jesus when he was alive, we can open our hearts to have an encounter with him every day. That is the challenge.

We are very blessed to have our parish family here at Saint Clement. A family that encourages you to go just one step further in your relationship with Jesus. Maybe you don’t feel you even have a relationship with him or don’t want to. If that is the case, I encourage you to take an Alpha course. This truly is an open and non-judgmental environment to ask your questions, share your doubts, and set aside time each week to learn more about faith. Maybe your relationship with Jesus has stalled. Perhaps a course like Grounded in Faith or weekly service at a Mass or Friday Morning Hospitality will be the kickstart you need. Maybe you’re looking for more from your parish family and the pillars of our Love Your Neighbor ministry can fulfill that. There are countless opportunities for your heart and mind to be opened to Jesus and have your faith grow. Be strong, fear not!