Moses said to the people: "Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the Earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any God venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testing, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must know now, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on Earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever."(P) The word of the Lord.
Upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the Earth is full. (R)
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it was made; He commanded. And it stood forth. (R)
See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him, upon those who hope for His kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)
Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.(P) The word of the Lord.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Two friends were boasting about their knowledge of foreign languages. One asked, "Do you understand French?" "Oh! Yes", he replied, "but only when it is spoken in English."
We may boast that we have been a Christian for many years, that I have been a priest for twenty years, that we have acquired a lot of Biblical knowledge, that we have learned all the Christian teachings and precepts but may have hardly grown in Christian spirit. Hence, it is very important that we do not stop with only acquainting ourselves with biblical stories or learning the teachings of the Church but also to internalize and apply them in our daily life so that we may experience the truth contained in them.
You may know the origins and early history of Israel based on the Old Testament yet let me recall them briefly for a better understanding of today's first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. Thousands of years after creation and the fall of Man, God called Abraham, a seventy five year old righteous man, out of the idolatrous and wicked world, to leave his home and move to a place God would show him. It was a test of faith and obedience for Abraham. Abraham did as he was told. Since then his faith had been put to the test many times. But the supreme test of his faith came when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Once again Abraham obeyed God's command without hesitation. God was pleased with Abraham's faith and obedience, and promised to bless him and all the peoples of the Earth through him.
After Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the descendants began their life in Egypt. The Egyptians initially welcomed the Israelites and treated them fairly. But after sometime, fearing the Israelites' growing numbers, the Egyptians began to oppress them by subjecting them to slave labor. God saw the sufferings of the Israelites and graciously intervened. So He chose Moses to free them from slavery and bring them out of Egypt and lead them to the land promised to their father Abraham. As Moses led them towards the Promised Land, God made a covenant with them. He gave them His laws, the Ten Commandments, and commanded them to abide by them. However, the Israelites rebelled against God repeatedly and failed to abide by the terms of the covenant. Shortly before they entered the Promised Land, the aged Moses gave them three long speeches or discourses.
In the first one, he reminded them of their prolonged lack of faith and explained why they had wandered in the desert for forty years before reaching the Promised Land, which in fact, some scholars say, should have taken only a few days to do so. In the second speech he stressed the need for exclusive allegiance to God and observance of the laws, on which their possession of the land depended. And in the third speech he offered them comfort that, even should they prove unfaithful and so lose the land, with repentance, it can be restored.
Today's text is taken from Moses' first speech in which he instructed the Israelites to look back and remember the signs and the wonders that God had worked for them particularly during their journey through the desert. Moses also reminded them that since the beginning of time God's revelation of Himself to humankind had never been so great. From the Book of Exodus we learn how God saved the people of Israel through an extraordinary intervention. God sent Moses to Pharaoh to ask for the release of His people from slavery. When he refused to free them God sent plagues as punishment for the Egyptians' long abuse of the Israelites and for disobeying Moses. God parted the Red Sea to help them escape Pharaoh's armies. God gave them bread from heaven to eat. God gave them water out of a rock. God talked with them from a cloud and from fire. In like manner, God watched, kept, guarded, and protected them from the hands of their enemies and diseases.
Hence, Moses wanted the Israelites to remember those saving events and focus on God who had been faithful and merciful to them. Moreover, he strongly admonished them for disobeying God and commanded them to obey Him, who will continue to be faithful to them. He said to them, "You must know now, and bear in mind that the Lord is God of both heaven and Earth, and that there is no other. You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you, may prosper and that you may have long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever." That is to say, if they obeyed God's commandments, He would provide for them in their needs and, He would bless them and their children with happiness and peace forever.
However, we learn that some of the Israelites continued to disbelieve, disobey and test God's patience. They quickly forgot all that God had done for them and turned to adore lifeless idols, pagan "gods". God sent many prophets to guide them to the right path but they ignored some and killed others. Finally, God sent His only Son Jesus to restore the broken relationship. Jesus came down, lived and died in our place, and rose again from the grave, so that we can be reconciled to God and can share the fruits of His victory.
What is the message for us today?
The text reminds us of the divine blessings bestowed upon mankind. God has given us so many good things that they overwhelm our lives. He has blessed us with the heavens, the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, the stars, water, land, plants, animals and birds. Besides, "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed us with every spiritual blessing from heaven through Jesus Christ", Ephesians (1:3). Speaking of the spiritual blessings Paul mentions: Ephesians (1:3-14) - Chosen people, adopted children in the family of God, redemption and forgiveness, capacity to understand God's eternal purpose, share in God's glorious eternal kingdom and Holy Spirit. In addition, each of us has received a great variety of gifts and graces that make us unique - health, talents, job, security, people and material things. Thus, every gift from God is still a good gift and a perfect gift.
But just like the Israelites, we often tend to take our blessings for granted or forget the many good things we had in the past. Sometimes we compare our blessings with those of others and become envious and unhappy. Sometimes we feel that God has let us down because He does not give us things that we feel we are entitled to. Sometimes we allow this disappointment to make us harbor resentment or angry thoughts against God and others, to make us idolatrous and wicked and thus deprive us of our joy and peace.
Let us, time and again, remind each of us the wondrous things of the past and those of the present. Let us make a constant effort to remember the small or ordinary but important acts of kindness that have come our way. Let us, at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, enumerate the many mercies from God and offer heartfelt thanks to Him because it is a perfect sacrifice of praise and Thanksgiving. The more grateful we are and the more we practice this in our everyday life, the more we will realize that we are not as alone or burdened as we think, and moreover it will bring us healing, happiness and peace. As a matter of fact, Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, (8:14-17), which we read today, reminds us that the Spirit of God makes us children of God, and if children, then heirs of God, and become joint heirs with Christ. That's to say, we inherit all that belong to God such as compassion, generosity, joy and peace.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!