Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reflections for the 4th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Fear 

The Gerasenes were terrified of the crazy man who lived among the tombs. They had good reason to be. He was uncontrollable; even chains couldn't hold him. He ripped them off as though they were paper. People knew that he was possessed, but they had no idea what to do about it. So they looked over their shoulders a lot and avoided the tombs as much as possible. 

Then Jesus appeared on the scene and did something amazing. He cast the unclean spirits out of the man and sent them into a herd of swine, which promptly dashed over a cliff into the sea and drowned. No one knew what to make of it. The swineherds hurried into town with the news, and people gathered around Jesus. They were shocked to see the once-wild man sitting quietly at Jesus' feet, calm, clothed, and sane. 

This sight actually scared the Gerasenes more than the man had on his most violent days. They couldn't grasp what had happened. They couldn't understand it. And they were frightened that they begged Jesus to leave them. The miracle was just too much for them.

Jesus complied. He would never force Himself on anyone. The man He had healed clung to Him, wanting to go with Him, but Jesus told him to go home and tell people what his merciful God had done for him. The man obeyed and spread the report of his deliverance far and wide.

Did the Gerasenes ever get over their fear? The Gospel doesn't tell us. It seems that they had been fearful for so long that they didn't know how to let go of it, even when they witnessed a miracle of God's love. Even though the crazy man among the tombs scared them, miraculous change scared them even more. 

Their story invites us to examine our own lives. What do we fear? Do we fear change more than anything else? Do we fear the hand of God working in our lives? Are we scared of what He might do in us? Will we accept His miracles of love, or will we cling to the status quo just because we are frightened to make a change?

Tuesday – The Lord Came to His Temple

“And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek...” When the prophet Malachi uttered these words, he had no idea how God would actually fulfill them. He would have been (and probably was) quite shocked when his prophecy was finally realized.

Jesus was so tiny, only forty days old. His mother hugged Him close as they entered into the Temple precincts. Today was a very special day. Mary and Joseph, devout Jews that they were, had come to Jerusalem to fulfill the Law. Mary would be ritually cleansed after the birth of her Child. Then she and Joseph would “redeem” their Firstborn Son in accordance with the Law by the sacrifice of two birds. 

Did they even know they were fulfilling Malachi's prophecy? The Lord was indeed coming to His Temple. Simeon realized it. So did Anna. They recognized the infant Messiah even though His arrival was quiet and unassuming. God had appeared in His Temple. He was truly present. 

Wednesday – Sin and Its Consequences

King David should have known better. Counting the number of men fit to serve in his army was a huge mistake, a huge sin really. By doing so, he was essentially saying that he could rely on his own strength rather than on God's protection. He was becoming just like the pagan kings around him: a military leader rather than a representative of his Lord. 

It wasn't until after the fact that David realized his foolishness. “I have sinned grievously in what I have done,” he told God, and he begged for forgiveness. God was ready to forgive, of course, but He also knew that David needed to learn a lesson so that he would never commit a sin like this again. 

Sin always has consequences, and God gave David three options: three years of famine, three months of fleeing from an enemy, or three days of pestilence. David didn't really like any of the choices, but he decided on the punishment that would be over the soonest. He chose the pestilence. 

Israelites died by the thousands, and David was horrified. He was seeing the results of his sin firsthand. His heart went out to the people, and he begged God to stop. “It is I who have sinned,” he pleaded, “it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep; what have they done?” God accepted David's heartfelt prayer, and the plague ended. David had learned an important lesson about sin and its consequences and about compassion and mercy.

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