Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 26, 2017 — Never Give Up!

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 397

Reading 1 EX 16:1-5, 9-15

The children of Israel set out from Elim,
and came into the desert of Sin,
which is between Elim and Sinai,
on the fifteenth day of the second month
after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The children of Israel said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in,
let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole congregation
of the children of Israel:
Present yourselves before the LORD,
for he has heard your grumbling.”
When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel,
they turned toward the desert, and lo,
the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!
The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
“I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the children of Israel asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

R. (24b) The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
They tempted God in their hearts
by demanding the food they craved.
Yes, they spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?”
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and the doors of heaven he opened;
He rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
He stirred up the east wind in the heavens,
and by his power brought on the south wind.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
And he rained meat upon them like dust,
and, like the sand of the sea, winged fowl,
Which fell in the midst of their camp
round about their tents.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
All who come to him will live for ever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:1-9

Image result for jesus near the sea, art

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

26 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

SURRENDERING TO THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 16:1-59-15Ps 78:18-19,23-28Mt 13:1-9]

In the first reading, we read of the trials of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sin.  They had left Egypt for 45 days, wandering in the desert.  The provisions would have run out and thus they “began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”  In their frustrations they began to exaggerate how good their life was in Egypt.  They said, “Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!”

Before we condemn them, it is important to put ourselves in their shoes. Life in the desert was certainly not easy.  They had to combat the extreme heat and cold and strong winds.  They had to look for water.  Nothing can grow in the desert.  The land is rocky and sandy.  They had to protect themselves from wild beasts and from peoples from other tribes.  So leaving the sheltered life in Egypt and going to a land of nowhere must have been extremely trying for them.  They were not too sure when they would ever reach the Promised Land.  At the same time, they had to contend with their daily needs.

We too are often like them.  But their situation is much worse than ours!  We have food, clothing and lodging.  We might not have as much luxury as we want, but most of all, we have our basic needs in life.  Most of us can be gainfully employed if we are not choosy over the work we do.  Health wise, we are quite well taken care of.  We might be able to afford the most advanced medical treatment, but we can get by in our sickness.  Yet, we are also not happy.  Whether we are earning lots of money, having a great career, we remain dissatisfied, always lamenting and comparing.   Rich or poor, healthy or sick, famous or ordinary, smart or average, we are never happy.  We are envious of others and we want more and more.  When we get what we want, we desire something more.   We are never contented.  This is the reality of life.  This was the case of the Israelites.  They asked for water and that was given.  They asked for bread and it was also given.  Then they asked for meat, which was also given.  But they remained a people that were always grumbling, complaining and testing the patience of Moses and the Lord.

Indeed, we often lament why our life is this way and not that way.  The parable of the Sower in today’s gospel illustrates the mystery of the grace of God.  The sower sowed the seeds.  Unfortunately, not all the seeds fell at the right place.  Some “fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  Indeed, the question is, why did not all the seeds fall on good soil.  If they did, then all the seeds would have attained their ends, which is to grow and to flourish.

The parable of the Sower and the seeds tells us that life is a mystery.  It is but the grace of God.  Why some seeds fell on poor ground and some on good ground is not for us to ask.  It just happens and this is not within our control.  Why are our children not as smart as others?  Why is it that the other person who is less capable or intelligent promoted over me?  Why am I not born into a rich family?  Why am I not given the opportunities to further my studies or career?  Why am I born with poor health?  These are questions that we often ask but these are vain questions as there is no answer.  God has made us all different kinds of soils.  He gives His seed, that is, His grace, equally to all.  So it is about the soil, which is us.

In the final analysis, regardless whether we are the path, the rocky ground, a patch of thorns or fertile soil, we can make the best of the situation we are in.  It is self-defeating and destructive to adopt an attitude of envy and resentment at the situation we are in. Whining and lamenting over the so-called disadvantages of life will get us nowhere except make us vindictive and self-pitying. Such attitudes towards life will not make us grow.

Hence, we are called to turn our disadvantages into moments of opportunities and grace.  Those of us who are born on the path, the edge of society, can rise above others because we know what it is to be marginalized.  That should help us to struggle against where we are so that when we are able to get out of the situation, we too can help those who are on the margins of society.   Similarly, if we are that rocky patch, hardened by life’s suffering and trials, we need not be closed to the grace that comes from God and the many opportunities in life that people offer us. Rather, we should use the bad experiences of life, the failures, the mistakes and the injustices we have suffered to help us reach out to others who are still hardened to the grace of God.  And if we come from the thorny patch of life, choked by the burden of responsibilities, the demands of daily life and our work, the temptations of the world to dishonesty, power, wealth and glory, then we should make use of these thorns that choke us to make us see life in perspective.  When we feel choked, we should free ourselves from these thorns by finding what the essentials of life are and what the real happiness that we are seeking in life is all about.

Conversely, it does not mean that only those who are blessed with fertile soil can produce good harvest. In fact, quite often, those blessed with opportunities, talents, wealth and resources take them for granted.  They do not recognize the blessings that they receive.  It is just like the Israelites.  They prayed for food and God sent them manna.  “And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp: in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp.  When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground.”  Observe their reaction to the miracle.  They “said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was.  ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’”  They failed to recognize the grace of God when it was given. This is the tragedy of life.

Truly, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord.  As the Lord said, “Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens.  Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.”  The Lord wants to test whether we will follow His ways, trust in His divine providence, and stay focused.  The Lord is not deaf to our pleas.  He knows our pains and our struggles.  But He wants us to let Him be the Lord of our lives.  We should not presume that we have the last word and are able to manage our lives without Him.  They did not trust Him.  “In their heart they put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.  They even spoke against God.  They said: ‘Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?”  Hence, “the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel.  Say this to them, ‘Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content.  Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.’”

To trust in the Lord is to let the Lord be our God!  The psalmist urges us to rely on the goodness of God instead of putting Him to the test.  “Yet he commanded the clouds above and opened the gates of heaven.  He rained down manna for their food, and gave them bread from heaven. Mere men ate the bread of angels.”  God has given us Jesus the bread of life, the bread from Heaven.   This is the greatest blessing we can have.   Jesus shows us the way to live a life of fecundity, by giving ourselves in love and service to others and by walking in faith and in obedience to the Father’s will.  We too can share in this life if we follow Jesus, cooperating with God’s grace as He did, walking by faith and not by sight.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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Bible Gateway: Parable of the Sower
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The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers.
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Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully.
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So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it.
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They are told of free salvation, of the believer’s privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance.
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But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Heb 6:8.
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Worldly cares are great hinderances to our profiting by the word of God.
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The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites.
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Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns;but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God’s word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are. (Mt 13:24-30)
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 Freedom in Christ: Parable of the Sower
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In this parable, one observes four different conditions associated with the soil of the land.
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In essence, Jesus is calling attention to the condition of one’s heart, which determines one’s receptivity to the truths of God. Jesus wants His listeners to listen with receptive hearts. The design of this parable is intended to illustrate the causes of rejection and acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.
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Jesus drew upon an agricultural image in order to convey why some would reject and others would accept His teachings. It is through this parable that Jesus draws attention to His own ministry. In this parable the soil represents the various conditions of the human heart.
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One objective of this study is to draw attention to the “now” as well as to the “then.” The question that confronts every believer is: How can Christians relate this parable to their own lives?
Every individual should search his or her heart for an examination of the following question: How do you relate yourself in your study of the various conditions in the sowing by the sower? What kind of soil is your mind?
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Commentary on Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Give us this day our daily bread…and meat.

Anyone who has ever led a large group of people through unfamiliar territory is sure to have heard complaints — often over trivial matters — from some or even many members of the group. The complaining can quickly sour relationships and provoke the leader to regret that he or she took the group away in the first place.

The complaining is loud and clear in this Exodus passage. Moses, Aaron and God get an earful. For us as readers, it is tempting to adopt the position of story outsider and treat the complaining as whiners, condemning the Israelites as faithless.

No one likes listening to complaint. Individuals in power or in the majority can often choose to ignore a complaint, dismiss it as mere whining, or punish the complainant. In contrast, to listen to a complaint involves seeing the world from another’s position and hearing a call to act.

Thus, to condemn the Israelites for complaining in Exodus 16 would be to introduce a judgment that the text itself does not make, sending the message that complaint has no place in life with God.

This, of course, is not true. The laments in the Book of Psalms give voice to the human experience of abandonment, suffering, fear, and danger. The laments call upon God to see, arise, and act (e.g., Psalm 10, 13, 89). In the Book of Job, Job rejects an attitude of resignation toward his suffering. Instead, he unleashes a lengthy and detailed complaint against God’s treatment of the righteous and God’s management of the world. From the cross, Jesus cries out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1).

At its core, complaint is a turning to God — not away — trusting that God the Almighty does not ignore, dismiss or punish those who call out in fear, anger, suffering, and need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites are beginning their second month of wilderness walking (16:1) following their deliverance from Egypt. The dangers of the wilderness are real — the Israelites have already faced thirst (Exodus 15:22-25), now hunger, and later they will face attack (Exodus 17:8-13). They do not exaggerate their predicament. They are no longer part of the system of labor that fed them in the past. They cannot supply their own needs. They are hungry. Their situation is dire and there is no visible way out.

The complaint that there is no food, the fear of the present, and the longing to be back in an earlier time are not constrained to the pages of Exodus. The situation is the same for the world’s poor today, and they are joined by increasing numbers of people losing homes, jobs, health care, pensions, dignity, property, and savings in the wake of global economic turbulence.

Exodus 16 offers the assurance that the wilderness of want is not a God-forsaken time or place. As Moses instructs Aaron to say to the Israelites: “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining” (16:9).

It must be acknowledged that a complaint does not always contain the best solution. In their complaining, the Israelites declare it would have been better to have died in Egypt than be facing hunger in the wilderness. In recalling Egypt, they think not of death but of food, specifically meat and bread. In their complaint, Egypt sounds like the good life as they remember how they “sat by the fleshpots and ate [their] fill of bread” (16:3). In their real fear for the future, the Israelites look back to Egypt as the way of life that sustained them.

The wilderness is a place of danger and want. It is also a space for learning new ways of relating that are not based on the identity the Israelites had and the life they lived in Egypt.

In Egypt, the Israelites’ lives and service benefitted Pharaoh. In the wilderness, their lives begin to be reordered. In the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 20:1-17) the loyalty of the Israelites is redirected from Pharaoh to Yahweh. Their service no longer benefits Pharaoh but goes towards building a community characterized by integrity, honor, care and compassion.

The wilderness is also the place where the Israelites come to know the God who has demanded and accomplished their release from slavery. In the dispute with Pharaoh, Yahweh claims the Israelites as Yahweh’s own (“Let my people go so that they may worship me” Exodus 9:13). God demonstrates power over humans in defeating Pharaoh and power over creation in delivering the Israelites.

What is unknown as the Israelites exit Egypt is how this powerful God will relate to them in the future. Exodus 16 offers a glimpse of this emerging relationship.

God hears the complaining of the Israelites. God recognizes not only their need for sustenance — daily bread — but their desire for a life beyond scarcity — meat. God responds by sending quail for meat and manna for bread. God proves to be a different type of lord than Pharaoh.

What an awesome scene as the dew lifts and the sun rises: the wilderness ground is covered with a “flaky substance, as fine as frost” (16:14). It is unfamiliar to the Israelites and they are puzzled, perhaps even fearful, as they ask each other: “What is it?” (16:15).

It is, Moses explains, bread from Yahweh given to them. As the Israelites move into their wilderness journey God has found new ways to provide for them. The manna supplied to the Israelites may offer hope to people today that God can and does provide in new and fitting ways in changed and uncharted conditions.

There is another amazing surprise in this passage. As the people “looked toward the wilderness…the glory of the LORD appeared” (16:10). It is not just on a mountaintop or just to Moses and Aaron that God appears.

God is near and listening to those whom we might be tempted to call faithless: those who complain to God because they are hungry, anxious, dislocated, in unfamiliar territory and without a clear plan for the future. There God is present. For them the glory of the LORD is revealed in daily bread…and meat.

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=354

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 26, 2017 — Never Give Up!”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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