Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflection for the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – God's Courtship

The prophet Hosea paints a beautiful picture of God's courtship in today's first reading. God loves Israel with a love beyond all telling, and He longs for His people to love Him back. So He says that He will lead Israel into the desert, into a place where they can be alone together, and He will speak to her heart, whispering of His undying love.

It had worked before, long ago, when God had led Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. He had made a covenant with her then, a marriage bond, and He had remained faithful all those years.

Israel, on the other hand, had not. She had turned to idols, giving herself to non-gods that she thought would give her the power and wealth she craved.

The one true God had waited and waited, and now it was time to win back His beloved. He pictured the moment when she would call Him, “my Husband,” and He dreamed of once again taking her to Himself in covenant bliss forever.

God courts each and every one of us just like He courted Israel. He longs for an intimate covenant relationship with us, so He speaks to us, allures us, draws us close to Him, and longs for the day when we will respond. Will we accept God's proposal and give ourselves to Him as He gives Himself to us?

Tuesday – Idols

We might think that idols are a thing of the past. After all, most of us don't run around worshiping gold statues these days. (And no, Catholics don't either...our statues and holy cards and images are merely pictures of our loved ones. They help us remember and focus, but we certainly don't pray to them. We pray to God, and we ask the saints to pray with us.)

Unfortunately, though, idols are very much with us even today. An idol is anything that gives priority to something ahead of God. It might be money or a job or possessions or honor or a pet project or even another person, anything that means more to us than God.

Today's readings remind us that God does not tolerate idols. He wants (and deserves) the top spot in our lives, and when we don't give it to Him, there will be consequences to pay, not because God is cruel but because we are out of touch with reality. Reality tells us that God is the highest Being of all. He is Being itself. He made us; He sustains us in existence at every moment; He loves us. All He asks is our love, worship, and obedience in return, and that is not too much to ask, considering that He gave us everything we have and are.

So we need to ask ourselves honestly: Do we worship any idols? Do we put anything ahead of God? And if the answer is yes, then we had better repent, knock down that idol, and put God back where He belongs, at the very center of our lives.

Wednesday – The Twelve

A few fishermen. A religious nut. A tax collector. They were mostly uneducated, working class men these twelve that Jesus chose to be His apostles. They had no qualifications that made them worthy to preach the Gospel. Most of them had probably never been far from home.

Yet Jesus chose them. He saw their potential, even through their sins and weaknesses. He knew that these were men He and His Father could work with. They weren't caught up in the quest for riches and prestige. They didn't carry the intellectual baggage of some religious leaders and scholars of the Law who focused on rules and ritual far more than love of God and neighbor.

Instead, these twelve men were simple and open. They made mistakes, no doubt, and even sinned. They were far from perfect. But all except one allowed God to work in their lives so much that eventually they carried the Gospel to the ends of the earth and were willing to suffer and die for their faith. Jesus chose well.

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