The cost of the Promised Land

juniperofalling

St. Junipero of Serra statue toppled

We’ve officially started summer, as the Summer Solstice was yesterday afternoon. When I was a child, summers always seemed to involve long car trips to whatever great destination lay at the end of the journey. I was one of five kids, so it was seven of us and sometimes the dog on 12-hour drive to a family lake house. With luggage for seven for a week or two, even the huge station wagons of the 1970s were crowded, and so the drive was basically an endurance test and a test of faith. We had to trust that the lake at the end of the trip would still be there, that it would be clean and clear and cool, and there would be no garden to weed, and no barn to clean, just water to swim in and canoes to paddle.

The readings today are addressing some of those themes: the idea of the promised land and the cost of trusting in that promise when things seem so bad. Our country was founded on the promise that all men are created equal, and that we have a system of laws that apply to everyone equally, and the recent events in the news suggest that at least a few are losing faith in those promises. As Christians, we have to remember what promise was made to us. We were promised eternal life with the God who created us, and this promise was made by a heavenly father who keeps his promise. And this promise or Covenant was sealed by God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. God sent his son into the world to redeem the world. By his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus has redeemed us.

Jesus paid the price of the sin of Adam which Saint Paul speaks of in the letter to the Romans today. Through the one man, Adam, sin entered the world. Adam is a type or figure for every man and woman, Death followed sin. That meant every human being born after Adam was destined to die, for the wages of sin is death. The Law came later. St. Paul explains that the purpose of the law of Moses was to show us where and how we had sinned, but the sin had been present even before the law.

A state of sin is where we generally find ourselves. It’s through the grace of God that we don’t have to stay there. God is our way out of sin. God is our way out of chaos. God is our way out of hopelessness. And God gave us that way out when he sent his Son to live with us and to die for us on the Cross.

In the gospel story, Jesus gives us words of comfort as we wait for his return. He says. “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.” He gives us words of comfort and instruction on how to wait for his return. For He says, “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” He gives us words of strength so we can wait for his return.

He first tells us to fear no one. Sometimes it seems impossible not to have fear. In the reading from the Old Testament today the Prophet Jeremiah seems to be describing our social media cancel culture when he says, “I hear the whisperings of many. Let us denounce him! All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” In a chaotic mob movement that topples the statues of St. Junipero of California and President Abraham Lincoln along with Confederate generals, we may feel trapped and fearful of others’ vengeance. But Jesus reminds us how much our Father in Heaven loves us, and he encourages us to trust in Him and continue to acknowledge Him.

Where do we get this strength? Where do we find the courage to acknowledge our Heavenly Father? Well, each and every one of us is called to be a prophet of the Lord as part of the threefold ministry of Jesus we received at our baptism. In our own way, we are all Priest, Prophet and King.

The priest offers sacrifices, which we all do when we bring our sacrifices to the altar during mass. To offer the other cheek when someone hits us is a sacrifice we can bring to the altar. The prophet speaks the words that the Lord has given him to speak even if he doesn’t want to. To proclaim on the housetops what we hear whispered in the Church is prophetic work we have to do. And the King governs or rules, which each of us does individually when we learn how to govern or rule our passions. To learn how not to give into fear but develop courage and prudence, is our personal kingly work.

That is our daily activity as Christians in the world today. We are to be filled with reverence and fear of the Lord, but we are not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Our mortal bodies will die, but our eternal souls will live. That is the promise Jesus made. We must trust God and speak the words that he is giving us to speak, when and only when, he commands us to speak in his name. And we must bring our sacrifices of control, of patience, of endurance, of perseverance to his altar and offer them as Father offers the sacrifice of the Mass.

And we should be encouraged by the Gospel reading today where Jesus tells his disciples how much our heavenly father loves us. Our Father knows us. All the hairs of our heads are counted, so do not be afraid. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus before others, Jesus will acknowledge before our heavenly father. If we name him and claim him, no lasting harm will come to us. If we turn from him and deny him, then he will let us walk away to our own destruction. It’s really that simple. If we trust in God even to the point of being insulted for him or becoming an outcast for him because of our zeal for his house, we will receive the grace of God and the blessing of eternal life with him.

So, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid, but acknowledge and believe in your Heavenly Father.

 

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