The First reading at Mass today, the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the night that presaged freedom and the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people: the night that opened the way to the Promised Land.
That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that, once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage.
This was the expectation of your people, the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes
you made us glorious by calling us to you.
The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret
and this divine pact they struck with one accord:
that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike;
and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.
What ‘night’ does Wisdom allude to? Certainly the reference is to the night of the first Passover in Egypt (Ex 11.4-7), but also there is probably a reference back to the night time promises with Abraham and Jacob (Gen 15.13-14; Gen 46.3-4). In the deepest darkness comes the sure promise of eternal light and life: God covenants with his people
The promises of the Old Testament lead the people forward – if they will hear them, and put their trust in them. But as the Second reading at Mass today from Hebrews makes clear, the people of the Old Testament, what ever their faithfulness, did not receive the ultimate gift that was to come only in Christ. They lived and died in faith, but awaiting the fulfilment in Christ. The Promised Land itself is but a stage on the way to the Kingdom.
Today, we too are called to live in faith – as the Gospel too, today, makes perfectly clear. We too are called on into the Kingdom that is so very near: already but for us not yet, not quite yet.
Yet already through faith in Christ we are incorporated into him. As Paul says we already share his death, and so share in his resurrection. Of ourselves we are called forward and called to seek after the kingdom, but in him, already and securely, we are part of that reality. In him we seek our true selves.
- What in God’s promises draws you forward?
- What in this present ‘land’ might hold you back from faithfully answering his call to move on and move forward?
A street in Arles. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.