Sunday, July 12, 2015

Reflections for the 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Jesus First

Today's Gospel reading is a selection from Jesus' instructions to the Twelve who are about to go out two by two to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Jesus is explaining their mission, cautioning them against temptation, and inspiring them to faithfulness and courage. In the two verses just before our reading, Jesus proclaims, “Everyone therefore who acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in Heaven; but whoever denies Me before others, I also will deny before My Father in Heaven.”

Then He says something rather shocking. He did not come to bring peace upon the earth, He declares, but rather a sword. We might think, “Huh? Jesus didn't come to bring peace? What's that all about? Shouldn't Christians be peaceful people?” 

Of course, Christians should be peaceful! When we are right with God and in a state of sanctifying grace, the peace of Christ should reign in our hearts. 

But Christianity is a radical religion. It's challenging. It can be offensive to nonbelievers. It causes conflicts, even within families. It sets people against each other because some people will stubbornly resist the truth that makes them uncomfortable. This is the reality Jesus is describing when He says that He is not bringing peace but a sword. Christians will always be persecuted, especially if we practice and share our faith openly and speak out against the evil in the world. 

What must we do then? Jesus tells us. We must make a firm commitment to our Lord and establish a solid set of priorities. Jesus must always come first in our lives, before other people, even before our dearest family members. As Christians, we must take up our crosses and follow Jesus. We must be willing to imitate Him in giving up everything for the truth, even if that means offending loved ones or even losing our lives. For when we choose Jesus, we choose the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We choose Heaven. We choose Love. 

Tuesday – Woe to You!

How many miracles do I have to do before you recognize Me? How much clearer can I teach? What else can I say to make you realize that God is dwelling among you? How many messages of love do I have to send? What can I do to get your attention? 

You don't want to listen. You are so attached to the things of this world, to your habits and your prejudices and your expectations. You want power, money, fame, glory. You don't want Me. I love you, but you refuse to accept that love because you love lesser things. So you don't repent. You don't want to accept the truth and let it change you. You are stubborn, and your hearts are hard.

So I say, “Woe to you!” You will experience the consequences of your sins. I don't want that for you. No. Never. But unless you open your hearts to Me, confess your sins, and change your lives, unless you embrace love, unless you throw yourselves into My waiting arms, judgment will fall hard upon you. Choose Me, please. Choose Me and live. 

Wednesday – Who Am I?

Imagine Moses' surprise when God starts speaking to him out of a burning bush. After all, Moses doesn't have very much going for him at the moment. Although he is a Hebrew by birth and had been adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter, he is currently alienated from both the Hebrews and the Egyptians. He is living in a foreign land among a foreign people, doing the menial job of tending his father-in-law's flock.

God, however, has chosen Moses for a great mission. He has heard His people's cry, and now He is coming to the rescue. Moses will be His instrument of choice: “I will send you to Pharaoh to lead My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses' response is basically “Who? Me?” Probably with a large gulp, he asks God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

God doesn't answer that question. Instead, He assures Moses that he won't be alone in his mission: “I will be with you.”

That's all we need to know really. When God chooses us for a task, He doesn't leave us alone. We can rely on Him to be with us and to guide us. His presence and our willingness are all we need to succeed, no matter how inadequate we might feel.

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