Wednesday, July 19, 2017

God's Calling

Today's first reading, Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12, gives us the story of Moses' call to free his people from the oppression of the Egyptians.  He is out tending his sheep near Mt. Horeb and sees a bush on fire but not being consumed.  He decides to check it out: why isn't this bush being consumed, he must be asking himself. As he is approaching the burning bush, he hears a voice saying to him: "'Moses, Moses'! He answered, 'Here I am.' God said, 'Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,' he continued, 'the 
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have truly noted that the Egyptians are oppressing them. Come, now! I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people, the children of Israel, out  of Egypt."

I can imagine the following dialogue between Moses and God: 

Me? I'm a murderer.  I fled Egypt to get away from Pharaoh, who had every right to kill me for killing an Egyptian.  No way can I go back there!

Moses, I am sending you back to Egypt to free my people. They are oppressed.

I will be killed if I return to that place. 

I will protect you!

Find someone else, God! I will not go!

Moses, I am God! Go free my people. You are under my protection.

Oh, Lord, okay! If you say so!  Please help me. I am vulnerable. I will be  depending upon  you.

And, under God's protection, Moses, scared to death, begins his journey back to Egypt!

You and I, also vulnerable and dependent upon God, are sent into "Egypts," big and little, to free others from whatever oppresses them, to lift burdens we ourselves may even have placed on other people's shoulders.  God goes with  us! God protects us. And, yes, God equips with the tools we need to do His bidding!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God's Providence

Today's first reading, Ex 2: 1-15a, tells the story of Moses' birth, his being placed in "a papyrus basket, daubed...with bitumen and pitch," and hidden in some reeds on the river bank. The baby was found at age three months by an Egyptian woman who recognized the boy as very special and belonging to an Israelite woman. He is rescued and eventually adopted by Pharaoh's daughter as her own son and given the name "Moses," meaning "I drew him out of the waters." When Moses grew up and saw an Egyptian fighting with one of his own kinsmen, he killed him. Fearing that Pharaoh found out about the murder, Moses fled to Midian.

The first stanza of today's Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 69, describes Moses' plight: "I am sunk in the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me."

You and I--in our sinfulness, in the weaknesses to which we give in when we lord it over others, when we  need to have things work out our way and we refuse to compromise, when we are obnoxious and prideful, when we do not follow the Spirit's lead--can also sink  into "the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; [we can then reach] the watery depths; the flood [then can overwhelm us]."

With today's psalmist, I "pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor...In your great kindness answer me with your constant help....I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving...."

As we prayed yesterday at the liturgy,  "our help is in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 124).  With God at our sides, we will not sink into the "abysmal swamp where there is no foothold."

Monday, July 17, 2017

God's Unfailing Help and Rescue

In today's first reading,  Ex 1: 8-14, 22, we are told the story of how the Egyptians enslaved the       Israelites, oppressing them "with forced labor," reducing them to "cruel slavery, making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick and all kinds of field work--the whole cruel fate of slaves."   Every boy born to an Israelite was drown at birth, to limit increased population of the Israelite nation.

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 124, the Israelites pray: "Had not the Lord been with us...when men rose up against us, then would they  have swallowed us alive, when their fury was inflamed against us.  Then would the waters have overwhelmed us; the torrent would have swept over us; over us then would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who did not leave us a prey to their teeth."  

We know the story of how God freed the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians, how they escaped through the Red Sea, in which the pursuing Egyptians' horses and charioteers and the whole Egyptian army drown. We also know the story of how God brought the Chosen People to the Promised Land, being with them in all the battles that ensued in route!

We, too, encounter many a hardship on our journey to the Promised Land of eternal life: wars, domestic violence, oppression by the cruelty of some bosses and/or employees; hard labor, natural disasters, unemployment, chronic illnesses, the "loss" of children who get lured into drugs and those who become victims of sexual predators, and on and on!

God is right there with each one of us when hard times come our way! We may not see God or feel His Presence, but God has a plan to free us, make us whole, and restore us to the life He intends for us.   It is God who "does not leave us the prey" of the teeth of "predators." "Broken is the snare, and we [are] freed. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth," the psalmist prays, and so do we!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Being Fertile and Fruitful

In  today's first reading, Isaiah 55: 10-11, the Lord reminds us that "[j]ust as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but it shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

As a parent, imagine that each instruction that you give to your children bears fruit, that is,  it does not return to you void but accomplishes the good for which you intended it. Imagine, also that, because of your guidance--the words of wisdom you speak to them-- you see your children grow in grace and wisdom, in strength to do what is right, especially when peers are pressuring them to make choices that will bring them harm!  Your words, as stated in the Gospel of today, Matthew 13: 1-23,  "fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." And you are truly proud of you sons and daughters, your grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Now, apply this to your relationship with God. God instructs you every day, sending His Word to you through the Spirit who dwells within you, through the Scriptures read at a Sunday liturgy and explained in the priest's homily, or in your reflection on a cherished spiritual resource which we read each day.  The word "fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." And God is truly proud of you!

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Here I Am," God

In today's first reading, Ge 46: 1-7, 28-30, God calls Jacob in a nightly vision:  "Jacob! Jacob!"  Jacob answers: "Here I am."  God then asks him to not be afraid to go down to Egypt, "for I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes." In today's Gospel, Mt 10: 16-23, Jesus says to his apostles:  "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves."

Jacob is asked to a go to a foreign country and to trust that his needs and the needs of his family and relatives will be provided for. He is promised that he will grow into a great nation, as well!  When Jesus sent His apostles out during his three-year ministry and afterward, following Jesus' return to His Father in heaven, He provides them with the strength and the courage and the wisdom they need--He baptizes them with the Holy Spirit!  The Kingdom of God spreads throughout the world--a great nation of believers is developed through their obedience to God. And the Church continues to grow to this very day.  Men and women, today, are also sent out "like sheep in the midst of wolves."  We are to be as "shrewd as serpents and simple as doves," guided by, empowered by, made "shrewd" by the Holy Spirit, who equips us with wisdom, courage, and strength to say "yes," "here I am," Lord, to do your will just as Mary did, just as You did when God sent you to redeem us.  Yes, we are sent to by God to be His heart and voice in a world that is corrupted by greed and power--a world that has become enslaved to idols, false gods,  and substitutes for God.

God comes to set us free!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Mystery of Suffering

In today's first reading, Gen. 44: 18-21, 23b-29; 45: 1-5, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  He forgives them for selling him into Egypt, saying: "I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you."  Joseph, a man of faith, interprets what was an harrowing experience as a blessing from God, a part of God's providence.  In Egypt, he was the victim of false accusation and thrown into prison: "They weighed down with fetters, and he was bound with chains, till his prediction came to pass and the word of the Lord proved him true" (Psalm 105). When that happened, "[t]he king sent and released him, the ruler of the people set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions" (Psalm 105).

God worked marvels in Joseph's life, as He does in the life of all of us. God had a plan for him that initially looked horrible and which, in fact, was  a criminal act on the part of his brothers.  God wrote straight with crooked lines, so to speak, bringing God good out of evil and continues to do so for us today. You and I are the strong persons, the women and men of faith that we are today, because of the sufferings we have endured and which we survived, as was Joseph. In the midst of such suffering, however, we usually do not see God's hand at work. That does not mean that God is sleeping or does  not care.  He is very much molding, melting, and transforming us through the cross, just as our lives were made holy through the sufferings of Jesus on Good Friday. Clothed in faith, we are transformed by what we suffer for the sake of God! Joseph was and so were his brothers!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Justice to a Fallen World

In  the entrance antiphon to today's liturgy, we pray:  Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of your temple.  Your praise, O God, like your name, reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with saving justice."

God's right hand is filled with saving justice for the U.S.--for all nations.  Right now, given the probability of  immoral, unethical and possibly criminal activities surrounding the presidency of the U.S., some members of the President's cabinet as well as of our Congress, we desperately need God's saving justice to be brought upon those who are violating the values of our Constitution, the commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus given in the Gospels.

In today's first reading, Gen. 41: 55-57; 42: 5-7a, 17-24, in which Joseph demands justice of his brothers who come down to Egypt seeking food for their family, we are given an example of God's justice. In fact, when Joseph threw his brothers into prison for three days, they believed it was God's justice being meted out to them for what they had done to their brother. Justice, in our day, will also come to those in powerful positions who are treating others cruelly so they can line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor--yes, even possibly to the unnecessary loss of lives.

"O God," we pray in the Collect, "who in the abasement of your Son have raised up a fallen world, fill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness."  Raise up our President, members of his cabinet and of our Congress from their "slavery to sin"--the sin of greed, the idolatrous worship of wealth.  Raise all us  up from that which enslaves us to Satan's allurements.  I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen