Sunday, July 5, 2015

Reflections for the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – God's Promise

In today's first reading, God makes a promise to Jacob: “Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go...I will never leave you.” 

We realize that this promise extends to us as well, for in the psalm, we respond to it, acknowledging and embracing God's words of love. In these few verses, we multiple words and images that emphasize God's constant presence and protection. We call God our shelter, in Hebrew sêther, which means a covering, a secret place, a hiding place, and somewhere safe. We abide in God's shadow, in Hebrew tsêl or defense. We recognize Him as our refuge (machăseh or hope, trust, and shelter from danger) and fortress (mâtsûd or fastness, castle, and strong place). We recall that God is the One Who rescues us from the snare of our enemy and from the pestilence that can destroy us. God covers us with His wings. He is our deliver, the One who sets us up on high, in Hebrew śâgab, an inaccessible place that is safe and strong. Even our response, “In You, my God, I place my trust,” claims God as our reliable stronghold. 

Do you truly mean what you pray in this psalm? Is God all of these things to you? Do you really trust Him to be with you, to protect you, and never to leave you? Do you believe His promise to Jacob? Do you realize that it is also a solemn promise to you? Take a few minutes today to answer these questions truthfully and reflect on God's promise in your heart.

Tuesday – Wrestling with God

We encounter a strange scene in today's first reading. The patriarch Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious man. They end up in a deadlock until the man strikes Jacob's hip. Jacob, although injured, refuses to let go until the man gives him a blessing. “What is your name?” the man asks. When Jacob replies, the man gives him a new name, “Israel,” the one who has contended with God. 

That's when Jacob begins to realize that his opponent is no ordinary man. He asks the man for his name, but the man refuses to give it. Now Jacob knows for sure that he has been wrestling, in some miraculous way, with God, and he announces that he has seen God face to face.

We, too, wrestle with God. We wrestle with God when we don't understand and our hearts cry out “Why, God?” We wrestle with God when we struggle to believe. We wrestle with God when we pray for someone we love and our prayers don't seem to be answered. We wrestle with God when we strive to persevere in the face of mystery and pain and doubt and fear. In these struggles, God touches us and changes us. 

St. Ambrose once wrote, “What does fighting with God mean if not engaging in the combat of virtue and aspiring to the highest, making oneself, above all, an imitator of God? And because [Jacob's] faith and his devotion could not be overpowered, the Lord revealed to him the secret mysteries.”

When you wrestle with God, then, hold on. Don't let go of Him. He won't let go of you, and He will change your life. 

Wednesday – The Twelve

They were a rough bunch, these twelve apostles. They were fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot (that era's equivalent of a religious nut). They were unknown, working class fellows from average families. They led normal, everyday lives. They weren't powerful or rich or famous. They weren't leaders or priests or scholars. 

But Jesus chose them and called them anyway. He taught them and empowered them. He sent them out to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, and He gave them authority over sickness and unclean spirits. Later, after these men received the Holy Spirit, look what they did. They spread the Church throughout the known world. They preached. They taught. They healed. They led. They provided the sacraments. 

If God can call and use men like these, why should we be surprised when He calls us? Why should we doubt that, if we let Him, He will do amazing things with us and through us?

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