Monday, August 17, 2009

Remember Us, LORD, As You Favor Your People.

Today’s Scriptures portray the weakness of human nature. In the First Reading (Judges 2:11-19) we see that throughout their history, ever since they were freed from slavery in Egypt, the children of Israel tended to ignore the worship of the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to give homage to the idols worshipped by the inhabitants of the surrounding nations. Now that they are settled in Canaan, they once again abandon the LORD, the God of their fathers, and serve the Baals, the idols honored by the Canaanite people.

Once more, because they had forsaken him and served Baal and his female counterpart Ashtoreth, the LORD’s anger flared, and he allowed them to fall under the power of their enemies. Whatever they undertook, the LORD would turn to disaster. Even when He raised up Judges, they did not listen, but abandoned themselves again and again to the worship of false gods. When there was a powerful Judge in Israel, the people paid heed; but when that judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, refusing to abandon their evil practices or their stubborn misconduct.

Today’s Psalm (106) is a plea to the LORD to be merciful to his people. The LORD had commanded them to exterminate the peoples of the surrounding area, but instead they began to mingle with them, and to behave like them. They even immolated newborn babies, their own sons and daughters, in the service of idols. They became tainted by their deeds, shameful by their crimes. The LORD became angry with them, and abhorred his legacy. He rescued them many times, but they embittered him by their refusal to heed his advice. Still, he continued to have concern for their affliction, and to hear and respond to their cry.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22) a young man asks what good he must do to gain eternal life.

Young Man: Rabbi, what good must I do to gain everlasting life?
Jesus: Why ask me about what is good? Only God is good. If you wish to gain eternal life, keep the commandments.
Young man: Which ones?

Jesus: Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Young Man: I do all of that. What is missing?

Jesus: Go, sell all your possessions, and follow me.
When the young man heard Jesus’ explanation, he went away sad, because he had many possessions.

Being a disciple of Jesus is demanding, even all-consuming. But, in the midst of all this scriptural tough love, the Responsorial Psalm (106) reminds us that God hears our distress and responds with love and mercy. This means we can be both realistic and hopeful—we are flawed and we are called to follow Jesus. We have a God who loves us even when we fail. With that ever-present encouragement, we journey forward.

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