- Father David M. Knight
Father David's Reflection for Tuesday of Week Thirteen (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 26) invites us to keep conscious always of God’s mercy: “O Lord, your
mercy is before my eyes.”
In Genesis 19: 15-29, did God work a miracle to destroy Sodom or just refrain from working a miracle to prevent an earthquake that was going to happen anyway? (See the footnote in The Catholic Study Bible, 1990). Regardless, the point of the story is that sin is destructive by nature, and we are only saved from the consequences of sin by listening to God and following his directions. Genesis doesn’t say whether God found in Sodom the “ten righteous ones” of his bargain with Abraham (18:32), but we presume not, since the cities were destroyed, and even Lot’s own family wouldn’t believe his warning but “thought he was joking.” Only Lot, his wife and two daughters were saved, and that only because the angels, “by the LORD’s mercy” dragged them out! But they were saved, and Lot could say, “O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.”
God’s role is always to save, but we have to listen to him — and take seriously what he says to us through his word and his ministers. His warnings are no joke; we ignore them at our peril. But even when people do ignore them, the duty of his ministers (our duty as priests by Baptism) is always to be intent on saving people, not on condemning, excluding, driving out or disciplining them. If necessary, we have to “seize them by the hand” and lead them to safety. It is imperative that a minister be able to say always, “O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.”
Matthew 8: 23-27 shows us Jesus in this role. Where he is we are safe, even in a leaky boat manned by a bunch of incompetent sailors in a storm so bad the boat is being “swamped by the waves.” We are safe even if Jesus is asleep! By contrast (we will see in the next story), without Jesus, even if we are as safe as a pig in a pasture, we can still drown!
To keep people safe we must lead them to Jesus and teach them to remain consciously in his presence. It is natural (and deeply destructive) to seek security in the stable world of law-observance, where disciplined order in our own behavior and in the behavior of those around us gives us a sense of being in control of our lives. Discipline and order are both good, but they cannot save us. And if we are not vigilant, we can focus on them instead of on personal, conscious, explicit interaction with Jesus. Then we will drown in our own sense of security! If Jesus is sleeping unnoticed in some corner of our lives, we need to wake him up and let him take over.
Initiative: Be a priest. Act with Jesus and as Jesus in everything you do.