Wednesday, July 24, 2019

God Fights for Us against Satan

In yesterday's reading from  Exodus 14: 21-15:1, "the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the Lord was fighting for them against the Egyptians."  The same is true for us. Enemies may be pursuing us on every side and especially from within our own beings: pride, selfishness, gluttony, idolatry (God substitutes such as compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, food,  pleasure, relationships,  sex or whatever we use to distract ourselves or as sole means to meet insatiable needs, calm excessive fears, and avoid feeling whatever pain is beckoning us to look at the truth of what is going on in our lives). As with the Israelites, God fights for us as well.

By our use of God substitutes, we are likely to deafen ourselves to God's voice and develop a  blindness to God's presence and action in our lives.  How do we keep our ears and eyes open?  How do we maintain our focus on God, realizing and discovering that God is on our side and that God is enough for us? By calling upon the Holy Spirit or reverently uttering Jesus' name, asking God to help us.  It is at those times that Satan sounds his "retreat" from us,  because he knows then that the Lord is fighting for us against him in the same way as the Lord fought for the Israelites, His Chosen People.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Liberation from Slavery to Oppressive Behaviors, that is from Sin

In today's first reading, Exodus 14: 21-15:1, we are given the story of the Israelites being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians.  God divides the waters of the sea, "with the water like a wall to their right and to their left," the Israelites are able to cross the sea on dry land.  Once safely across, God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea, "that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians."   None of them survive.  "When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and beheld the great power that the Lord had shown against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and believed in him and in his servant Moses."

This story is not only about the Israelites. It is about you and me, as well!  God also frees us from our oppressors: the oppression of selfishness, prejudice and hatred that holds us back from being a true disciple of Jesus.  It is about the ways, through baptism and the other sacraments that Jesus frees us from the oppressing blindness and deafness that deprives us of the ability to recognize Jesus in others and from hearing the voice of the Spirit guiding us to do good and avoid evil. 

The story of God freeing the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt is a precursor of Jesus freeing us from sin as He offered His life for our salvation and rose from the dead, death and sin having absolutely no power over Jesus.  In baptism we died with Christ and rose with Him to new life, a life in which we are empowered to live as brothers and sisters and mothers of Jesus, that is as persons doing what the Father wills of us (see today's gospel, Matthew 12: 46-50).

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Freed from slavery!

In today's first reading, Exodus 12: 37-42, we are told about the night that the Israelites rushed out of Egypt.  To this very day, this night is remembered by the Israelites as "a night of vigil for the Lord".  God kept watch over His people and, at the right time, freed them from the slavery of the Egyptians.  God also keep vigil for us. He knows the chaos or the slavery into which we have fallen or could fall each day. He watches. His timing of freedom for us is the perfect timing.  God is not turned back by what He sees. The turmoil, the chaos, the sinfulness, the divisiveness, the deficits in our lives do not cause God to distance Himself from us. No!  On the contrary, God draws near to us.  God is always near, watching and waiting for the right moment to set us free, to draw us closer and closer to Himself and to others in love.

For 430 years, the Israelites stayed in Egypt! That certainly is a long time!  Where was God, you may ask? God was at their side, empowering them to rise up to the occasion and do what had to be done as slaves.  Was God pleased that they were slaves? Of course not!  God, in no way, wishes us evil or rejoices when life is difficult for us.  God is the liberator, the One who reconciles us with those who  bring us harm or frees us from those who hurt us!  Our freedom may come in a variety of ways. Sometimes as dramatic as with the Israelites' passage out of Egypt. Most times, in less dramatic ways and sometimes we are not even immediately aware that we are being led to freedom.  We simply start making choices by which we let go of attitudes that enslave us to others or that allow others to abuse us.  We begin making choices that give us peace or we keep company with persons who are supportive of us and give us the courage to be our true selves, not another person's slave!

Am I, are you, choosing ways that limit our authentic freedom to be the best person we can be? What behavioral changes do I, do you, need to make to experience greater freedom to serve God with joy and in peace?  What attitudes do I, do you, need to change that will lead us more deeply into the truth of who we are, who God is and how to become our better selves?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

God's Promise to Be with Moses and with Us

In today's first reading, Exodus 3: 1-6, 9-12, Moses encounters God in the burning bush.  curious that the bush is not being consumed, Moses approaches the bush, saying to himself: "I  must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned."  As he approaches the bush, he hears a voice announcing his name"   "Moses! Moses!   ...'Here I am,'  Moses responds.  "Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  I am the God of your father,..., the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."  God then tells Moses that he has heard the people's cry and is aware of the fact that the Egyptians are oppressing them. He wants Moses to lead God's chosen ones out of Egypt. Moses questions God:  "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?"  God says to him: "' I will be with you."

Imagine being Moses, a man in hiding out of fear of being killed by Pharaoh for killing an Egyptian in retaliation for his murder of one of Moses' kinsman. "Me go back into Egypt?  You have got to be kidding, God! I killed a man there!  I will be put to death!" God, of course, knows Moses' past crime and yet chooses him to confront Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of slavery!  Our sins are not a deterrent for God's choice of us to do the work of liberating others from that which enslaves them.  In fact, God has liberated Moses from his sinful past and empowers him to be a liberator with God's help.  The same is true for us! Or is it? Do we cooperate with God when God calls us to partner with Him?  Or do we resist, offering God every excuse in the book of why there is no way that we can do what he is asking of us?

What if Mary has said no to God?  What if Jesus had likewise refused to become one of us and show us the way to the Father and reveal the Father's love for us?  Both Mary and Jesus, however, said yes! They held nothing back! Nothing!

What am I, what are you, willing to do for God, for other's well-being, in accord with God's will for us and them, namely that we be reconciled to God and one another, that we become recipients of the fullness of life that Jesus came to give us?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Fulfilling God's Purposes Here on Earth

Today's Scripture, Exodus 2: 1-15, presents the story of Moses' mother, a Levite woman, hiding her infant in reeds on the river bank. Pharaoh's daughter finds him and asked his mother, who is watching nearby, to nurse him. She does so and when the child grew returned him to Pharaoh's daughter.   Moses is raised an Egyptian.

One day, as an adult, Moses sees an Egyptian  striking one of his kinsman and kills him.  The next day, he sees two Hebrews fighting one another and one of them asks: Are you going to kill us, too. Moses realizes that his murder of an Egyptian is known and that Pharaoh is out to kill him. He flees to the land of Midian.

As we know from the rest of the story, Moses is called up from Midian to be God's instrument in freeing the Israelites from the Egyptians. That he murdered a man is no deterrent in God using him for his divine purposes. In Moses' case, he overcomes his fear of Pharaoh and follow God's plan.  Not easy, by any means!

You and I are no different from Moses. We, too, engage in behaviors that, perhaps, we believe make us unworthy of being an instrument in God's hands. Not true, however. Because the works we are to do, or the purposes for which God created us, are accomplished, literally, by the Spirit of God at work through us. The good that we accomplish in this life is not our doing, though we may take credit for the good we do, collecting accolades and awards as though we truly carried out God's will all by ourselves.

Lord, we ask for forgiveness and repent of the times that we usurp Your power, the credit and the glory that belongs to You.  You are God. We are mere creatures, Your children, put here on earth to give You glory and honor and praise.  We are here to learn of You, to see Your glory here on earth and to be Your servants!


Monday, July 15, 2019

God's Work Cannot Be Destroyed

In today's first reading, Exodus 1: 8-14, 22, the Egyptian authorities execute a decree to oppress the Israelites, their slaves,as their population is increasing, afraid that,in times of war with other nations, the Israelites will join Egypt's enemies and turn against them and  also leave the country.  "Let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase....Yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied."

So, too, with Christianity!  God's work cannot be destroyed. The work of the Holy Spirit is unstoppable, then and now!

No matter how the cross appears--outside oppression, internal turmoil, ill health, failure of some sort or whatever-- whatever suffering you and I endure in faith and in trusting the Lord, our faith will deepen and our love grow stronger and more extensive. Suffering endured in faith will yield fruit that will last into eternity!

In Jesus' suffering, Jesus never lost sight of His Father's delight and love of Him and of us.  May you and I, likewise in our sufferings, not lose sight of God's delight in us,  His love for us, and His nearness, giving us the strength we need to grow in faith and trust of the Lord!  May we look to God for help to realize how much we depend upon God to grow in faith and love especially during times of trial, turbulence, and pain!


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Learning to Rely upon Jesus

In today's first reading, Gen 49: 29-32; 50: 55-26, Joseph's brothers, following their father Jacob's death, are afraid that their brother Joseph, whom they  treated so cruelly by selling him as a slave into Egypt, would take revenge upon them. So they approached Joseph, begging for mercy:  "'Please, ...forgive the crime that we, the servants of your father's God, committed.' When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears. Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him and said, 'Let us be your salves!'  But Joseph replied to them; 'Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve the present end, the survival of many  people.'"

Feelings are natural reactions to situations in our lives, and, of themselves, are not sinful. However, when entertained and obsessed about, we make ourselves vulnerable to choosing actions based upon those negative feelings. Joseph's brothers did just that.  By feeding their jealousy and anger, the brothers fell  into sin by planning murder. Changing their plan to kill Joseph, they  expressed their anger by selling Joseph to Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. To cover up their crime, they soaked Joseph's colored cloak in animal's blood to look as though he suffered a fatal attack by a wild beasts.

When have you and I entertained feelings of jealousy, anger, revenge? To what did those feelings lead us? Did we redirect our attention? Or did we act upon those feelings?  We have a choice to do either!
Let us turn our focus on Jesus, say the name Jesus and ask for help rather than relying upon ourselves to deal with situations that are problematic for us!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Trusting, Believing and Following the Lord to Freedom

In today's first reading, Gen 22: 1b-19,  God challenges Abraham's distorted thinking that he had to sacrifice the first fruits of his offspring to God.  Believing this cultural tradition, Abraham takes his son Isaac to a place where he intends to sacrifice him to the Lord. As Abraham approaches the place of sacrifice, he places wood on his son's back and continues the journey, leaving his servants behind at that point.  Isaac says to his father:  "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?"  Abraham replies:  "God himself will provide the sheep for the burnt offering."  And God does so, stopping Abraham from harming his son at the very point at which he is about to kill him!  God sends a messenger from heaven who calls out:  "Abraham, Abraham!...Do not lay your hand on the boy...Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God,  since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son."  Abraham looks about and sees a ram caught by his horns in a thicket!

What do we learn about God from this passage? 

  • That God knows our thoughts even before we do!
  • That God provides for our needs
  • That God tests our faith in many ways
  • That God uses even our distorted thinking to reveal Himself and His will for us
  • That God will and can stop us from engaging in wrongdoing
  • That God challenges our distortions and guides us to the truth
  • That God frees us from the power of Satan
Based on this passage from Genesis 22: 1b-19, how am I, are you, to live our lives?

  • Trusting the in Lord, as Abraham did
  • Realizing that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow
  • Following God's way, being cautious of the ego's power to mislead us into doing what is contrary to God's will, though what we are contemplating looks like the right thing to do
  • Remembering that God will provide for all our needs and that the sacrifice God desires of us is the one we remember during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Jesus' life, suffering, death and resurrection as well as our own

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

God: A God of Imminence, of Compassion and Power to Save

In today's first reading, Gen.  19: 15-29, God sends angels to lead Lot and his family out of Sodom, which God is about to destroy because of the wickedness of the people.  In the today's Gospel, Matthew 8: 23-27, Jesus saves his disciple from a storm at sea.  Both readings reveal a God who is imminent, compassionate, and aware of times that we are in danger. God is a God always ready to help us in time of need. 

How should you and I live according to these Scripture readings?  God, I believe, would say to us:  Live in complete trust of Me, Your Savior, and of God, your Father and the Holy Spirit, your Sanctifier. By your lives, may other people know that I am an imminent God, a God whom you trust, confide in and love with your whole heart.  Learn from Lot to trust me when I send angels to direct you out of danger.  From the disciples in the boat thrown about by turbulent weather, learn to call upon Me in your need. I am never asleep, as the disciples thought I was.  Know, as they learned, that no storm is too great for Me or the Father or the Spirit to calm.  We will keep you safe always!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Choosing God's Way

In today's first reading, Acts 2: 16-20, 3--31, St. Paul appeals to the leaders of the Jews in Rome, where he is under house arrest. He says to them: "My brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or our ancestral customs, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem. After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and speak with  you, for it is on account of the hopes of Israel that I wear these chains."  His appeal for freedom was rejected. However, Paul continues to speak about Jesus and proclaiming the Kingdom to anyone who visited him. Luke, the author of Acts, says: "He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

What do you and I do when what we ask for is not granted?  Like Paul, God's plan for us to proclaim or build up the Kingdom and/or speak about Jesus does not change. Only the circumstances around which we carry out the assignment God has given us changes.  Do I let go of my hurt in not having my ego requests granted and continue being Jesus' disciple or do I hold on to my grudges, dig in my heals and refuse to do the Lord's bidding? Do I let my ego edge out God?