Next Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The first reading at mass comes from the book of Deuteronomy
Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves, from your own brothers; to him you must listen. This is what you yourselves asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the Assembly. “Do not let me hear again” you said “the voice of the Lord my God, nor look any longer on this great fire, or I shall die”; and the Lord said to me, “All they have spoken is well said. I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers; I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all I command him. The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it. But the prophet who presumes to say in my name a thing I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”’
God fulfilled the prophesy in prophets like Moses, ministers of the word. They mediate the word, comforting and challenging Israel, calling it to fulfil its calling to be God’s people. Not set apart for nothing, or for its own sake, but for God’s.
Listening to the word and fulfilling it in one’s own life and death, and in the experiences of the community is Israel’s call. In faithfulness and unfaithfulness she serves as a sign to the nations. The words of the prophet, when he speaks the words of the Lord, draws out the meaning of the sign.
The meaning of the words of the prophet are not primarily addressed to the head but to the heart. If they do convey truths of fact about the world, so be it, but their deepest purpose is to enable those so called to live in truth the relationship with God which is offered to them.
The prophet speaks but the hearing that is needed is not accomplished with the ears only. It requires a more extended pondering in the heart and always in the context of the call to be of God’s people.
- What form does God’s call to you take?
- What helps you hear his word today?
- What, today, is likely to hinder your deeper hearing of his word, or your response to it?
The first reading in the Office of Readings set for today, Thursday of week 3, come from a few chapters further on in Deuteronomy. It movingly expresses the Lord’s passion for his people, and the choice that lies open to them – and now to all of us.
And when all these words come true for you, the blessing and the curse I have set before you, if you meditate on them in your heart wherever among the nations the Lord your God drives you, if you return to the Lord your God, if you obey his voice with all your heart and soul in everything I enjoin on you today, you and your children, then the Lord your God will bring back your captives, he will have pity on you and gather you once again out of all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. Had you wandered to the ends of the heavens, the Lord your God would gather you even from there, would come there to reclaim you and bring you back to the land your fathers possessed, so that you in your turn might make it your own, prospering there and increasing even more than your fathers.
The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, until you love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and so have life. The Lord your God will make all these curses recoil on your foes and on your enemies who have persecuted you. And once again you will obey the voice of the Lord your God and keep all those commandments of his that I enjoin on you today. The Lord your God will give you great prosperity in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, the fruit of your cattle and in the produce of your soil. For once again the Lord will take delight in your prosperity as he took delight in the prosperity of your fathers, if only you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping those commandments and laws of his that are written in the Book of this Law, and if you return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven, so that you need to wonder, “Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to wonder, “Who will cross the seas for us and bring it back to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.
See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.
Photograph of ceiling of apse in church of Sacred Heart, Marseille. (C) Allen Morris, 2014.