Commentary on the Gospel of
In the reading from Exodus and the passage from Psalm 69, we are reminded that the Lord may not always work in the way in which we imagine He will work. The first reading outlines the early life of Moses, a tale with both rescues and banishments. Psalm 69 is tale of suffering and trust in the Lord. These days in particular I am not always ready to accept what I see and hear. Today’s Gospel acclamation uses the words from Psalm 95, If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. I see the Gospel as a specific challenge to those not open to Jesus’ message.
The story of young Moses presents him following an unexpected and unconventional path that will eventually bring him to a leadership role in the Hebrew community - doomed as a Hebrew infant, rescued and unknowingly returned to his mother by the pharaoh’s daughter who adopts him, and finally falling from grace for a violent action.
In Psalm 69, I hear the cry of someone who is trusting in the Lord through a time of serious challenge and who wants to see that his trust is not in vain. I have often felt the flood of issues overwhelming me. I have prayed in similar ways in these situations.
I feel that Jesus in today’s Gospel is not intending to map out the degrees of punishment that await individuals based on what they have done in this world as Dante did in The Inferno. Dante puts the virtuous unbaptized in the first circle of the damned, while those guilty of betrayal occupy the ninth and lowest level. I am writing with some care as Dante placed his educator in the seventh circle along with those doing violence to God, art and nature.
My sense is that Jesus’ message intends to emphasize the importance of our willingness to listen and take in the Word. I am in a profession where we question. I am also in a profession where we are obliged to examine all that we observe. To me a blind acceptance does not make sense. Neither do rigidity or a lack of openness. I think that those with a similar disposition are slower to accept anything. My hope is that Jesus is not condemning people like myself. My personal feeling is that he is speaking sternly to individuals with hardened hearts. I am of the opinion that Jesus shares many of the feelings with the author of today’s responsorial Psalm. He expresses frustration, but seeks vindication (rather than retribution).
My prayer today involves both trust and patience. I ask the fortitude to endure challenges and keep trusting. (Human interactions that have gone awry can sour us. I have little doubt why Dante portrayed betrayal as the worst of sins.) I ask for my patience with the Lord when things do not seem to be proceeding as I would imagine. I ask for the Lord’s patience with me as I slowly progress on my faith journey.