Sunday, September 28, 2014

The mystery of God and our response: 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            One of the greatest truths of our faith of God is a mystery.  Our belief in God features an interesting paradox—that God is both utterly transcendent but ever present and accessible at the same time.
            Remember that God created everything out of nothing.  As the school year has started, I have introduced the candy basket to motivate our students to learn our faith.  The kindergarten through fourth grade classes can memorize a verse from the Bible to earn a piece of candy.  But the preschoolers simply have to tell me something about God.  Without exception, the little ones have alluded to God’s creation.  God made cars.  God made trees.  God made my puppy.  God made us.  It is wise to take seriously this childlike faith in God.  Indeed, God made all of the above.  He made the stars, sun and planets.  He created life and made everything we see in nature.  He made us.
            Yet that wasn’t enough for God and He sent us His son.  Jesus, “…though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.”  If we were to make a spectrum of all that lives, we humans would fall infinitely closer to the worms and mosquitoes than God.  God is eternal, all-powerful and all knowledgeable.  Yet He became one of us!
            Yet that wasn’t enough.  God’s son “…humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  It wasn’t enough for Jesus to become a man—he suffered, was tortured and died for us.
            Yet that wasn’t enough.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…”  Jesus rose again!
            Yet that still wasn’t enough.  Jesus gave—and continues to give—his very body and blood in the Eucharist.  And how does he give this?  By turning bread and wine—the most common food and drink—into himself.  How much simpler could God be present to us than what looks like a small wafer of bread and simple chalice of wine?
            Since the beginning of time, there has been a marvelous exchange between God and us.  In Catholic theology this is called in Latin exitus reditus.  (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later!)  Exitus refers to the gifts that come from God—creation, life, love and mercy.  Reditus refers to how we respond back to God. 
This is what Mass is all about!  When we present the collection, bread and wine, we symbolically remember everything God has given us.  We present it to Him and, through the prayers and actions of the priest, it is transformed into Jesus’ body and blood.
Our first reading and Gospel make it clear that our fundamental response to God is a simple choice—for God or for something else.  Ezekiel puts it bluntly: “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.  But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life…”
How will you respond to God this week?

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