Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflections for the 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – God's Dwelling

In today's first reading, we hear about Moses erecting the Tabernacle, God's dwelling place on earth. God filled this tent, and later the Temple, with His glorious presence. During the Israelites' time in the desert, this presence was even visible as the Shekinah, the cloud of fire by which God guided His people. When the cloud rose up from the Tabernacle, the Israelites moved forward on their journey. When the cloud settled upon the Tabernacle, the Israelites stayed where they were.

God still dwells among His people, even today. He dwells in every Tabernacle in every Catholic Church throughout the world, for He is really present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist. What's more, He dwells without our souls. When we are in a state a grace, God is truly within us. We become His Tabernacle. We carry His presence into every aspect of our lives. We bring Him everywhere we go and to everyone we meet. 

God is, of course, present everywhere. He has no limits. But He chooses to live in an intimate relationship with each of us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

Friday – Stubbornness

Isn't this just Jesus? Isn't He the carpenter's son? Doesn't His mother, Mary, live right up the street? Aren't His close relatives all right here with us? Isn't He the same kid from Nazareth, the one we watched grow up, the little boy who used to play with our children, the young man who was always so friendly and helpful? 

So what has happened to Him? Where did He get all these things He's teaching in our synagogue? Who does He think He is, coming here and preaching to us? 

Jesus had been expecting this reaction from His neighbors when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, but their lack of appreciation probably hurt Him all the same. He loved these people, and He wanted them to hear about the Kingdom and witness the power of God coursing through Him. But they're hearts remained closed. They thought they knew Him. They were stuck in their preconceived notions. They weren't ready to change their opinions or embrace anything new.

Aren't we all like that sometimes? We get stuck in a rut. We think we know Jesus and His plan for our lives, so we resist when He shows us something new or asks us to go in a different direction. Like the people of Nazareth, we don't like surprises and challenges and risks. We don't want to let go of our opinions. 

But look at what we miss in our stubbornness. Jesus didn't work mighty deeds at Nazareth because the people weren't ready to see them. He might just hold off on performing a miracle in our lives, too, if we refuse to be open to His work, His direction, and His love.

Saturday – The Demise of John the Baptist

John the Baptist always spoke the truth, and finally, it cost him his life. Herod Antipas, tetrarch (ruler) of Perea and Galilee, had illegally and immorally married his brother's wife, Herodias. John didn't hesitate to speak up and tell Herod that he was living in sin. He didn't care if Herod was a powerful ruler or not. Right was right, and wrong was wrong, and John was going to call it like it was no matter what the consequences.

Naturally, Herod, and especially Herodias, weren't pleased by John's censure. They had John arrested, bound, and thrown into prison. Herod wanted to kill him, but he was scared of the people's reaction, and besides, something about John kind of appealed to him. Herod liked to listen to John, even if the prophet's words made him squirm. 

Herodias had no such hang ups. She just wanted John out of the way, so she devised a plan. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter performed a dance for the tetrarch and his guests. Herod was so pleased that he told the girl she could have whatever she wanted. Herodias knew exactly what to ask for: the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was stuck. He had to grant the request, however reluctantly, and he did.

John the Baptist met his demise because he spoke the truth. His courage never wavered. He had committed his life to God and His law, and he would accept whatever consequences that brought, knowing that, in the end, he would reap greater rewards than he could ever imagine.

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