for the eleventh Sunday of the Year
Ex 19:2-6 - Rm 5:6-11 - Mt 9:36-10:8
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The choice of God
Ex 19:2, And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3, And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, «Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4, You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5, Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.»
In today's first reading, the Lord reminds the Israelites that he had made a covenant with them: "If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant..." For, several generations earlier, the Lord had made a Covenant with Abram, who would become Abraham: "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram..." (Gen 15:18) And, when they crossed the Red Sea by foot, the Lord wanted to confirm his Covenant with the Hebrew people: he freed his People from the slavery of the Egyptians, a figure of the coming liberation of all men by the Redemption accomplished in the Blood of the Son of God!
God has a plan for man, for every man, a plan that passes through a choice, an election, a preference. So God wants to invite every man and woman to participate in his own divine life. To make this invitation public, God makes a choice between the men and women of every nation, beginning with the Hebrew people. In this chosen People, God chose Prophets, who speak in his name, such as Moses. But each, according to the gifts received from the Lord, is called to proclaim this marvel of God among men: all of the People of the elect can become, by the grace of God, "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Ex. 19:6)
Rm 5:6, While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7, Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8, But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. 9, Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10, For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11, Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.
In the New Covenant, about which the second reading speaks, the plan of God is realized in fullness in Christ, for He is the Son of God by nature, since he is the Word of Life. But, in Christ Jesus, God's plan and choice meet: Christ is not only the one in whom the plan of God is realized, but he is also, and first, he whom the Father chose to manifest and proclaim that plan to all the men of the world. Christ is the Word of the Father, the Word who reveals the Father and his Love to all men!
Just as the Hebrews realized and manifested the choice of God by passing through the Red Sea, so have all those who have been baptized in the Blood of Christ (cf. Rom 6:3) realized and manifested the choice of God by passing, not through a physical and solely material element, but rather through a spiritual, or spiritualized, body, which is the Body of the risen Christ! "Much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Rom. 5:10) "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (Jn 14:6)
Mt 9:36, When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37, Then he said to his disciples, «The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38, pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.» 10:1, And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. 2, The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb'edee, and John his brother; 3, Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5, These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, «Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7, And preach as you go, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." 8, Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.»
By choosing twelve apostles, Jesus intends to make permanent this realization of the plan of God in the world, by making, through his Church, this plan present to all men and women until the end of the world: "I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:20) For the Church of Christ is holy! Assisted by the Holy Spirit, the Church is and ever remains holy, realizing in fullness, although in the way of participation, God's plan to give his own Life! Nothing at all, neither men nor demons, could make the Church fall away from the holiness that is her own. "The gates of hell will not prevail against it." (Mt 16:18) "And Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity." (Mt 10:1)
If the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea on foot is the preparatory sign of this great act of the justification of all men through the Redemption, then we understand when Jesus sends his apostles in priority to seek lost sheep of the house of Israel. "Go nowhere among the gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt 10:5-6) From one end to the other of the history of Salvation, the priority of the Savior, whether acting on his own or through his Church, must be and must remain the salvation of the chosen People, the Hebrew People.
No doubt that, if the choice of God fell on the Hebrew People, the first member of this people called to participate in the plan of God, in Christ, is none other than the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us honor her, She who is forever the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the model of sanctity for the entire Church!