Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 395

“Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”

I used to enjoy playing chess. It’s a beautiful game of amazing complexity. Until computers outstripped the human ability to play the game, many people believed chess was a game of infinite depth. Grand masters studied the game endlessly and considered themselves beginners. I found that thought intriguing and beautiful and I loved the game.
But I was a lousy player. I had no patience at all and I can’t stand to lose. Whenever I lost it seemed A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME! So I’ve not played in years. If you want to learn chess you’d better be prepared to lose. There is always someone who can beat you.

Anyone who does anything meets failure, and probably, often. Those without the intrepid spirit quit after a few attempts. They just can’t stand to lose.
The Hebrews in Egypt had vague memories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but mostly they remembered the endless frustration of slavery. Their successes were consumed by their superiors; their disappointments were heaped upon them. They had no history of achievement. Caught between the Red Sea and the massive Egyptian army, the runaway slaves despaired. How could they resist bowmen and swordsmen on chariots, the cutting-edge technology of its day?

Then the order came from Moses, “Go forward!” Toward what? The Red Sea?
In today’s gospel Jesus meets the same resistance among the Pharisees, though it is more sophisticated, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you."

Before we move forward we want some assurance that this will work out, that we’re not diving into another failure. We don’t see an opening here.
The Hebrews could not imagine the waters opening before them. The Pharisees could not imagine the Nazarene being raised from the dead.

Often we must obey the impulses of the Holy Spirit when we cannot see the road ahead. We practice charity when our resources seem already stretched; we practice patience when we have run out of patience; we listen when we already know the answer. We give our enemies the benefit of a doubt. We feel like Charley Brown attempting a field goal as Charlene holds the football. We take the chance.
Saint Theresa of Calcutta reminded Christians throughout the world, the Lord requires fidelity, not success. For that, we are grateful.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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