Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reflections for the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Theophany

A theophany is a direct encounter with God in which God manifests Himself to human beings in some way. Both today's first reading and Gospel show us God reaching out to His people, albeit in very different fashions.

The theophany in Exodus is dramatic. God appears in the midst of thunder, lightning, heavy clouds, and trumpet blasts at the top of Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain to speak with God while the people huddle at the foot of Sinai, trembling and terrified. God is demonstrating His great power here, for He is about to give His people the Ten Commandments, and He knows that they need to have a fear of God if they are to have any chance of keeping them. God understands His children perfectly, and He meets them just where they are in their journey toward Him.

The Gospel's theophany is quite different. Here we see Jesus speaking to His closest disciples. He explains to them that He teaches in parables because the crowds are not yet ready to hear the truths of the Kingdom directly. He is meeting them where they are and giving them what they can handle. The disciples, however, are ready to experience the Kingdom on a deeper level. They are closer to Jesus. They've listened to Him and seen His miracles. They are better able to understand.

In fact, Jesus recognizes this and tells them, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The disciples are experiencing a theophany, whether they know it or not. They are seeing God face to face, not in a flashing, rumbling cloud, but right there, sitting with them, talking to them, teaching them, loving them. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Incarnate, is indeed God's most spectacular theophany. 

Friday – The Law of God

We should love God's moral law. That seems like an odd statement, doesn't it? Laws and rules get a bad rap in our society. We tend to see them as restrictive and even harsh, standing in the way of what we want to do and how we want to live. 

Today's Psalm, however, offers us a different perspective on laws and rules, especially those given by God for our good. According to this Psalm, God's law is perfect and trustworthy. It refreshes the soul and provides wisdom. God's rules are right and clear. They give us cause to rejoice, and they enlighten us. All of God's laws are just and pure, and they endure forever. God's rules are precious and sweet, more valuable than gold and better to taste than honey. 

God gives us rules for a reason. We need them. Humans have a knack for choosing things that are bad for them and for heading off in the wrong direction. God knows us so well. He knows exactly what we need, and He realizes that what we need and what we want are often very different things. So like a good parent, He guides us. He teaches us right from wrong. He helps us choose good and avoid evil.

Do we appreciate God's moral law as we should? Do we see it as the Psalmist does? Or are our hearts rebellious and stubborn? Do we recognize God's law as a precious and perfect gift from our loving Father?

Saturday – Servant Leadership

In today's Gospel Jesus tells His disciples exactly what it means to be a leader in His Kingdom. James and John have just sent their mother to ask Jesus for a favor. They want to sit on His right and His left in the Kingdom. Of course, they have no idea what they are really asking. They don't yet understand that Jesus will suffer and die. They can picture the throne, but they can't grasp the cross.

The other disciples are pretty clueless, too. They're upset with James and John for trying to sneak to the head of the pack, mostly because they hadn't thought to try. 

Jesus takes this moment as a prime teaching opportunity to explain what true leadership really is. He begins by reminding the disciples about the nature of Gentile leaders. They lord it over the subjects, making their authority felt and making sure that people recognize their greatness. They are all about power and honor and fame. 

On the contrary, leaders in the Kingdom of God imitate Jesus' leadership style. He is a servant. He came to serve and to save, not to be served. Power, honor, and fame mean nothing to Him. He is all about love and mercy. He rules with kindness and compassion. He makes Himself constantly available to His people. He speaks with them, comforts them, and cares for them. He lifts them up. He encourages them. He corrects them as necessary but with love that they may grow ever closer to Him. He places their needs before His own. In fact, that they may live, He is willing to die. This is true leadership. This is the type of leadership that Jesus' disciples must embrace if they are to follow Him.

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