Moses, as depicted by Michelangelo, had a central role in God’s deliverance of the Israelites. Photo from Wikipedia

God's Word on Sunday: Absolute trust is our guiding light

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  • July 31, 2019

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time  Aug. 11 (Year C) Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48

What did the Israelites know and when did they know it? 

Wisdom retold Israel’s history — especially Exodus — nearly a thousand years after the fact. But it was more than a retelling, for the author added theological reflection and amplification. 

According to Wisdom, the Israelites had plenty of advance notice of what was to take place on the night of their deliverance. Granted, there had been many signs and wonders — the plagues were quite a show. But the slaying of the first-born and Pharaoh’s change of heart would surpass them all. This foreknowledge was made possible by the dedication of a few — the children of “good people.”

They had all agreed to and accepted the divine law, and in secret they offered prayers and sacrifices. They formed an inner core of Israel, for most of the people probably had little understanding. Many would probably have doubted that Moses had the power to force Pharaoh’s hand. After all, Egypt was an ancient superpower and Pharaoh was viewed as a divinity on Earth. 

Liberation seemed highly unlikely, but this group of committed people were putting their money on the power of Israel’s God. 

Their adherence to divine law and the will of God was a key element in the drama of the Exodus from captivity. 

This highlights once again the importance of remaining committed to spiritual ideals and fidelity to God, especially in these confusing and troubled times. Many are saved by the fidelity, purpose and prayers of a few. No one will direct us in this undertaking. It is something that each decides for themselves, being strengthened by others of like inclinations.

Some think that faith is an illusion, nothing more than wishful thinking. The author of Hebrews has a very different view: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen. In other words, it is another way of knowing — a person of faith is certain in their heart and guts that something will come to pass despite evidence to the contrary. 

Faith was the internal compass for the life of Abraham and Sarah — stepping into the unknown, leaving all behind and believing that God would grant them an heir and a future. Many probably thought they were crazy, pointing to their advanced age and lack of a son. 

The faith that was their guiding light was not belief in any doctrine or creed because there were none. It was absolute, radical trust. For many, the goal of their longing seems to hover on the horizon without ever being completely fulfilled in this life. 

We have an intuitive sense that something wonderful awaits us. It must be like this, for it signifies that we are mere sojourners or passersby on the Earth. We long for a true home and that home is with God.

What we do while we wait is extremely important. We can fritter away the time and pursue many superficial and fleeting goals. Some merely put one foot in front of the other, plodding their way through life. 

The Gospels encourage us to make maximum use of each day, learning the lessons of life, serving the needs of others and drawing ever closer to God. The length of our life is not of prime importance and neither is the date of the Lord’s return. 

All we have is the day in front of us and if we treat each day as a gift and possibly our last, we will be more than ready when the time comes. 

It is said that what you do when you think no one is watching discloses what sort of a person you really are. 

One of the issues in the first Christian generations was the return of Jesus. Where was He, when would He come back? 

The parables in the Gospel about masters whose return is delayed address this pastoral problem well. Some of the servants give in to a self-indulgent or corrupt life. After all, who will know? 

Jesus always commends those who are found to be faithful and doing what they were charged to do when the master returns. 

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