Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord

A meditation on the Readings of the Day. See Readings on USCCB.

Discern the message well.  Turn to Him and say “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”  When you turn you will see His arms wide open like the Father in the familiar Prodigal Son story.  You will see them wide open on the Cross in Jesus, who carries our sins and sends His Spirit to wash our sins away from our souls.

I can humbly ask, “Is God my teacher?”  He taught the pagans of Ninevah through His prophet Jonah.  They listened and repented.  What kind of society was this?  Something we do not hear in today’s reading was that they had a king.  Ninevah was the capital of Assyria, a people who had just plundered and conquered the northern tribes of Israel.  When Johah went through town with the message the king took note.  Verses 6-9 tell us: 

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”

The King led the people.  The psalm verse says, He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way.  The king was humble and listened and discerned well, leading the people into repentance, and the Lord relented of the evil that He had threatened to do.  I use the word relented on purpose, for when speaking of God it is a more appropriate translation.  

Why?  Because as we pray in the psalm, we know God’s love and compassion are from of old.  Goodness and kindness are His essence; God does not repent of evil, because evil only exists in His absence.  To relent is to mitigate a harsh intention.  To repent is to express sincere remorse.  The evil that was to come to the Ninevites was a consequence of their own actions, not an act of God.  They repented.  God relented of allowing the consequences of their evil actions that were going to come about through His permissive will.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that time is running out — that the world in its present form is passing away.  For people of faith this is true everyday, every moment, not just presently.  We know that we pass from former ways to new ways, that through Baptism we die to sin spiritually and are born into eternal life with our Creator.  Jesus conquered death by dying.  We, too, as a people of faith turn to the Father every moment.  We live in Christ.  We continually live through His death, and His Resurrection.  Unlike the Ninevites, we have the Holy Spirit present in our hearts teaching us and strengthening us for the journey to Heaven, which will pass through our own death.  Nothing in this world will go with us through death except our relationship with God.

Today Jesus proclaims the Kingdom in the Gospel reading.  It is interesting to note that Jonah’s proclamation was via the negative way, “you shall be destroyed.”  Jesus’ way is different.  Indeed, He says to repent, but He does this by saying, Come after Me. Last week He said, “Come, and you will see” (Jn 1:39).  He is our King, but He is no earthly king like the Assyrian king who put on sackcloth.  He is our God With Us who beckons us to follow His ways every moment.  He is the God Man who heals all our infirmities, and who accompanies us in our suffering.

His arms are wide open.  All I need to do is look at a crucifix to see the love that God has for me.  And you.  All He asks is for us to live in His love.  When we do this, the world in its present form passes away.

When the Son of Man is Lord of all; when He is Lord of ME

Reflection on the Readings of the Day 

This is our goal — for Jesus to truly be Lord of our Selves — body, soul, and spirit. This is the goal of every Christian, and the seed that leads to the goal is planted within us by our Baptism — the seed of hope. We can read all about this theological virtue in the Catechism (1817-1821), but CCC 1821 has particular significance to me this morning, because it quotes St. Teresa of Avila:
Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end” (St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3).

We hear a lot about hope in the Scripture readings for today. The author of Hebrews desires our eagerness in service to our neighbor for the fulfillment of hope until the end. He reminds us of God’s promise to Abraham, and how it is fulfilled in Jesus. Hebrews talks about this hope as the anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf.  He entered by taking on my sins. When I, living in hope, seek to make Jesus Lord of my life through my choices every moment I have the assurance in my spirit of rejoicing as Teresa speaks.

In the Alleluia antiphon we hear from whom these graces come, ultimately.  The antiphon is from Ephesians, “May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call” (Eph 1:17-18). Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:44). It is the Father who draws us to the Son through the seed of hope, and the Holy Spirit nourishes the seed so that we bear the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

As we are drawn to the Son we hope in Him presently and eternally. When we are in need, He is there as Lord of all, even our sinful Selves, for we were made for HIM.

Who are we to be?

Today in the first chapter of Hebrews we hear,
“…in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son,     
whom he made heir of all things
and through whom he created the universe,
    who is the refulgence of his glory, 
the very imprint of his being,
 and who sustains all things by his mighty word” (Heb 1:2-3).

I admit that I had to look up the word refulgence. It means shining out. In its verb form it means expressing intensive force. The meaning of this word is significant. How did Jesus do this? How did He shine? How did He make His way known? How did He express intensive force?

By loving. By dying — literally — by submitting to the forces that were outside of him and that were outside of human control. And He forgave them as it happened.

He knew what was within His control, and that was control of Himself (His SELF), manifested in a choice to love those who were persecuting Him. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We live in Christ through the Holy Spirit and manifest the same fruits [“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23)], when we continue seeking to be like HIM — making the choice to love. And He accompanies us in every moment.

God the Father, who created and sustains all things through His mighty word sees US through His Son. He sees US through the Son’s sacrifice on the Cross. When we join Jesus in this sacrifice…when we pick up our cross and follow Him, he brings us into His inner peace and joy…to the Resurrection.

This is who we are to be — the refulgence of the Father, living in the Word through the Holy Spirit who is living in us through our Baptism. This is how we are to act as Christians.

Lord Jesus, lead us, heal our Nation.

Heavenly Father, hold us close.

Holy Spirit, make it so.

Amen.