Sunday, July 26, 2015

Reflections for the 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Multiplying Sins

The Israelites had a knack for multiplying sins. The incident we hear about in today's first reading from Exodus takes place after the Israelites had seen the miracles God was performing for them. Through Moses, He brought plague after plague upon the Egyptians. Then He led His people out of Egypt on the night of Passover. Then He opened the Red Sea that they might pass through it. Then He saved their necks by closing the Red Sea in upon the Egyptian army that was hot on their tail. 

Even after all this, the Israelites sin in a major way. Moses leaves them for a time to go up the mountain, meet with God, and receive the Law. But the Israelites grow impatient and wonder if Moses, “the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt,” has abandoned them. They are already forgetting that God was the One Who delivered them from slavery; Moses was merely His instrument. 

They ask Aaron, the high priest and Moses' brother, to make them a new “god,” a golden calf like the ones they worshiped in Egypt. Aaron complies. Perhaps he has his own doubts, or maybe he fears the people, but this priest is pretty quick to forget the true God and mold a false one. 

The people are busy enjoying their new “god,” i.e., taking part in some intense feasting and probably sexual orgies along with, when Moses comes back down the mountain, holding the tablets of God's commandments in his arms. Needless to say, he is furious. He grinds the golden calf into powder, scatters it into water, and makes the people drink. 

But the sin doesn't stop there. Aaron is not at all ready to admit his role in Israel's idolatry. Instead, he whines and makes excuses. Really, Moses, he snivels, those people are just so wicked. All I did was collect some of their jewelry and throw it in the fire. This calf just bounced right out. Really, that's all! Scripture doesn't record what Moses replies to his brother, but it probably starts with “Yeah, right!” Aaron is still multiplying sin, this time with lies. 

See how easy it is for sin to get away and take on a life of its own? Take a few minutes today to sincerely examine your conscience and discover where sin tends to multiply in your life. 

Tuesday – Who is God?

Who is God? In today's first reading from Exodus, God Himself tells us Who He is as He meets with Moses on Mount Sinai.

First, God proclaims His Name twice: Yahweh, Yahweh. I am. I am. God is Being. He is the One Who simply is. His existence doesn't depend on anyone else. He has always existed, and He always will.

Then, God goes into more detail about His character. He is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity...” God longs to pour out His mercy and grace upon us. He is patient with us and lavishes us with His goodness. He is forever faithful to us, for He keeps His covenant perfectly. 

God extends His love to His children through a thousand generations (and longer, for the thousand symbolizes a nearly uncountable number), and He is always ready to forgive repentant hearts. Like any good father, however, God corrects His children and punishes them when they do wrong, for He knows that this is the way they learn and grow. If they experience the consequences of their sinful actions, they will be less likely to sin again.

God is good. He is goodness in Person and mercy and love and wisdom and knowledge, and He longs to reveal Himself to His people. He wants us to know Him and to love Him, so He reaches out, right into our lives and into our hearts. We need to learn how to listen so we can know more about who God is.

Wednesday – Martha's Faith

“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha's brother Lazarus has just died. He has only been dead for four days, and Martha is grieving deeply for him. Jesus wasn't there when Lazarus died, but Martha knows that if He had been, things could have turned out differently. Her faith in Jesus' power runs deep. 

But she isn't angry. She trusts Jesus too much. “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 

Jesus responds to this profession of faith somewhat cryptically: “Your brother will rise.” 

Martha doesn't miss a beat: “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” She is clear about the doctrines of her religion. She believes that one day God will raise up His faithful people to new life. She isn't afraid to say so.

Jesus pushes her faith even further: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” This is a challenge. After all, Martha has just lost someone very close to her. Lazarus did live and believe in Jesus. Martha knows it, but her brother is still lying in the tomb.

Yet again, Martha doesn't hesitate, and her response is a clear proclamation of Who Jesus really is: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One Who is coming into the world.” Martha believes that Jesus is the Messiah. She believes that He is the Son of God. She believes that He is the fulfillment of the promise God has made to His people for centuries. She believes that He can do anything, including give her brother his life back whenever He wants, either now or in the resurrection at the end of time. 

And she is right. Jesus meets Martha's faith with a miracle. Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

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