Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—25 July A.D. 2010

“These things were written for our correction,
upon whom the final age of the world has come.”

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    This morning’s excerpt from Saint Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians requires that we recall the journey of the Jewish people through the desert—the Exodus from captivity in Egypt.  What Saint Paul relates is that even though they had spent four-hundred years in slavery in a foreign land, the people refused to follow the ways of God when He led them to their promised home land.

    Even though God fed them with manna (a sort of bread-like substance that fell from heaven), and fed them with quail in the desert, they continuously complained that they wanted something more and better.  Some even suggested that they return to Egypt, where the food (in slavery?) was presumably better.  Some of them were idolaters (You will remember the golden calf);  some were fornicators—although the word “adultery” in the Old Testament often refers to infidelity to God rather than to a spouse.  The phrase “some of them rose up to play” suggests a generally irresponsible and irreverent behavior, even though they traveled in the continual presence of God.

    The “tempting of Christ” seems like an anachronism, for Jesus was fourteen or fifteen hundred years in the future—but “the Christ” means “the anointed One” and could refer to Moses, or to Aaron—or perhaps even to the Presence of God Himself as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—the divine “Shekinah.”  The “tempting” was in the form of challenging God to demonstrate His power to provide the things for which they asked.

    One of the penalties for this tempting of God in the desert was a plague of serpents—many were bitten and died—some were delivered from death by casting their gaze on a brass serpent that Moses held aloft on a stick  Many commentators on Scripture speak of the snake twisted on the stick as a precursor of Christ on the Cross—a man condemned to hang on a stick to deliver His people from death.

    In the Gospel we see that this infidelity, this irreverent and irresponsible behavior, surfaced again in the time of Christ—again in the place where God was continuously with His people, the Temple in Jerusalem.  By our Lord’s time, the home of the Divine Presence had become a place where people profited at the expense of the worshippers—changing the money of the Romans into the money of the Temple—selling lambs and doves, and other sacrificial victims to those who came to offer sacrifice to God.

    Our Lord’s reaction was uncharacteristically violent, as He drove all of the usurpers from the Temple.  Indeed, at the opening of today’s Gospel, our Lord predicted a far more violent end—for both the City of Jerusalem and for its Temple.  More than a mere expulsion, both the City and the Temple were to be destroyed.  And soon enough they were destroyed in 70 AD under the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who utterly crushed the nation and the rebellion of the Jews.  Historical accounts confirm the accuracy of our Lord’s prediction.  In many cases, not a stone was left standing upon another stone as the Romans smashed nearly everything.

    Today, one cannot help but marvel that things have not changed very much.  True, we are Christians and not Jews—and the beach is as close as we get to the sand of the desert—but we must honestly ask ourselves if our modern society is really any different from that of the Jews of two or three thousand years ago.

    Can we claim that we avoid the idols and the adulteries of the modern world?

    Do we not murmur about our human condition and our state in life?  Don’t we often ask why God this this or that to so and so?  Or wonder why we don’t have the fine things that our neighbor has?  Don’t we complain about our problems, while at the same time failing to thank God for our benefits?

    Do we not often “rise up to play” instead of looking after the needs of families, friends, and neighbors?  The material needs?  The intellectual needs?  and the spiritual needs?  Do we not spend more time with entertainments than with understanding what is going on in our Church? And in our nation?  In doing our schoolwork?  In saying our prayers?

    Do we not stand idly by as ever manner of foolishness takes place in our churches and in the forums of public life?

    It takes very little examination of conscience to recognize that we are often like those who died of the serpents in the desert.  It takes little to recognize that our society may be just like the society of Jerusalem, over which our Lord wept with the knowledge that His people would be scattered, and their cities destroyed.

    But “these things were written for our correction, upon whom the final age of the world has come.”

    If we recognize our foibles, it seems pretty clear what must be done to avert the fate of the desert and the fate of Jerusalem:  We know what God requires of us.  We must give up those infidelities and irresponsibilties.  “We should not lust after evil things, even as they lusted.”  We must not “rise up to play” when there are important things to be done in our Church, our families, and our nations.  We must not tempt God, and murmur that He has not given everything that we want, while simultaneously failing to thank Him for His bounty.

    The house of God must not be a den of thieves—nor clowns, nor dancers, nor acrobats—it must be a place of continual prayer.  Even more than the Shekinah—the Divine presence in the Temple—our God is continually present with us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  His Sacrifice is freely offered each day at Holy Mass—no goats, no bulls, no doves are required.  Please take every possible opportunity to attend!  Our Lord hangs on the Cross, as it was foreshadowed in the desert at the serpents—we have but to look upon Him and beg His forgiveness.

“God is faithful, and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength.”


[1]   Epistle 1 Corinthians x: 6-13





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