Sunday 28 February 2016
Our Reflection is from Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Moses is pasturing his father-in-law‘s flock, in the mountain of God called Horeb. It is here that he is called from the flocks to be a prophet. In this context, Moses sees a ‘blaze of fire’, and he hears the voice of Yahwe. This fire is not an ordinary fire. It is surprising because he sees a bush burning and yet not consumed by that fire. The fire burns but the tree is not destroyed. The tree continues to give light through its burning branches. It tells us something about God who gives light without loosing his power to give light. The one who gives light is the same God who generates light. He is the generator. He warms without growing cold. He enriches without being impoverished. God is inexhaustible, he can never be depleted. God is inextinguishable. God’s light can never be diminished. He gives us, the baptized and the ordained, the possibility of giving life and of inspiring others. We must not get tired of giving and donating ourselves. Yes, we need to take care of ourselves that we do not burnout. We must allow the fire within us to burn and to energize us to serve, to inspire and to sacrifice.
There, in the desert, Moses is called by name: ‘Moses, Moses’! He realized that he is needed. In the solitude, the vulnerability and powerlessness of desert-life, he is called. In spite of his earlier mistakes and sins, God calls him. The same Moses who, after seeing an Egyptian attack an Israelite, intervened and killed the Egyptian in the process ( Ex 2:13-14). Moses also intervened when he saw Midianite shepherds preventing Jethro’s daughters from watering their flocks. He drove the shepherds away and watered the flock (Ex 2:16-17). Moses shows that he is always ready to intervene and defend victims of oppression and injustice. He is a weak man. God sees the potential in him. God calls him in spite of his weaknesses. God does not always call the qualified. He qualifies those who are called. To those who say, ‘I am not worthy’, God says, ‘I will make you worthy’. Your weaknesses and your history will not stop God from using you. You need to say “Yes” and God will break you, form you, reform you, mould you and use you. You need to surrender yourself into God’s hands as clay in the potter’s hand. Acknowledge you sins and your hideous past. Repent and accept a new call. Pope Francis reminded us in Misericordiae Vultus “The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a ‘visceral’ love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (MV 6).
Moses was then instructed to take off his shoes for the place where he was standing is holy ground (Ex 2: 5). God demands total respect. Take off your shoes! So many of us want to follow God, but we are not ready to take off our shoes. We need to take off the shoes of stubbornness and luke-warmness. We need to take off our shoes of pride and jealousy. Take off the shoes of complacency and indifference. Take off the shoes of fear and hatred. We need to take off our shoes of prejudice and discrimination. We need to take off our shoes of immorality and anger. Take off the shoes of corruption and greed. Take off the shoes of nepotism and lies. Take off the shoes of Satanism and addiction. The Gospel of the barren fig tree today (Lk 13: 1-9), reminds us that God is a God of the second chance. During this time of Lent, we are given a chance to take off those shoes of sin and be ready to step into the holy ground of Easter with sincerity of heart.
This is holy ground!
- Creation is holy ground. Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ reminds us that creation has a broader meaning than ‘nature’, for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. He reminded us that the ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, the measure of the maturity of all things. All creation is thus moving toward a “common point of arrival’ back to the Creator. We need to take of creation which is our common home. Remember it is “Holy Ground”. The notion that creation is God’s temple or sanctuary is one found in numerous studies on Genesis and its context. It is an appropriate way to envision creation as God’s ordered cosmos. All of creation is God’s temple, then the unwarranted and often greedy molestation of creation for monetary or other short-term gain is a molestation of God’s holy ground. It is a desecration. Let us be activists against the destruction of our common home! Let us stand for sustainable development.
- Our Churches are holy ground. We use our church buildings as places where we gather to worship. The church is consecrated to remind us that it belongs to God. We are convoked by the Holy Spirit, to give glory to the Father, in and through Jesus Christ. Where is the sense of awe and reverence in our churches today? During the Sign of Peace, our liturgies become chaotic and noisy. People do not know why we genuflect and bow in church. People receive communion while chewing gum or sweets. We are disrespectful in in our dress, our chats, our behaviour and our noise. We forget that each of us is a living stone in the temple of God. From this building and from this body, this living temple should flow healing waters, providing life and sustenance especially for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, orphans, prisoners, etc. The Church of Jesus Christ always exists for others. Remember it is “Holy Ground”.
- Our minds are holy ground. Consider what you’re allowing to come into your mind through your senses. What are you reading, listening to, or looking at? Does it honor God? If not, why are you drawn to it? Ask God to help you choose better words, sounds, and images to feed your mind. “Right thinking” leads to “right actions,” which leads to “right feelings.” The priority is critical. If feelings are at the front, they will drive you wherever they feel like going. Right thinking is based on seeing each situation from God’s point of view, and then right actions—what would Jesus do? To help us with our daily discernment, let us listen to St Paul when he says: “fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely and noble” (Phil 4:8). Be part of the anti-pornography campaign of the Bishops’ Conference. Pornography involves the corruption of one’s mind and a distortion of sex as God designed it (1 Corinthians 7:2-3).
- Our Bodies are holy ground. 1 Cor 3:16 says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit abides with you”. Our bodies are the shrine, or the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives, but is worshiped, revered, and honoured. We must look after our bodies. This includes regular exercise, proper diet, getting enough rest and proper emotional health. But our world is filled with opportunities for us to abuse our bodies. Many of the typical “fast foods” are quite limited in important vitamins and minerals and are instead filled with fats, sugars and chemicals that actually destroy good health.
High-stress lifestyles require people to push harder and work longer hours to accomplish more and more. Researchers have discovered that chronic sleep deprivation contributes to high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity and likelihood of a stroke, in addition to significantly decreased cognitive function. Lack of proper rest equals health problems! Likewise, the results of abusing drugs and other substances, legal or otherwise, have been abundantly documented. Some substances attack the muscles, some attack the lungs and heart, and many attack the brain itself! When we say that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we also remind ourselves that sexual immorality is a sin that defiles our bodies -making a mockery of the temple in which the Holy Spirit is to dwell.
- Our hearts are holy ground. The heart is what you are, in the secrecy of your thought and feeling. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart . . . For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and slander. These are what defile a man. (Mat 15:18–19). So the heart is utterly crucial to Jesus. What we are in the deep, private recesses of our lives is what he cares about most. Jesus did not come into the world simply because we have some bad habits that need to be broken. He came into the world because he wanted to purify our hearts. Being pure in heart means being blameless, guilt free, with right motives and without deceit. God desires us to have clean hearts. In fact, it’s impossible for us to come into Heaven without clean hearts. God is perfect; He cannot tolerate sin in His presence. But there’s a big problem. We are sinners by nature. We need the Sacrament of Mercy. In his Daily Meditations (January 23, 2015), Pope Francis has warned us not to think of confession as going to the dry cleaners who remove the stain of our sins, so that we can go out feeling pure and perfect. Nor it is to enter a torture chamber, and be interrogated, accused, or even beaten up. … it is an encounter with the good God who always forgives, who forgives all, who know how to celebrate when he forgives, and who forgets your sins when he forgives you. …. the encounter with the Lord who reconciles, embraces and celebrates”. In his series of Wednesday audiences on the sacraments (19 Feb 2014), Pope Francis said “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When I go to Confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and to be healed of some wrongdoing. The biblical icon which best expresses them in their deep bond is the episode of the forgiving and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus is revealed at the same time as the physician of soul of bodies”.
Let us pray: May the Lord send the fire of the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we may burn and give light to others. May that same fire burn all the evil in us and in our land. May the Lord give us courage to make a good confession so that I may experience the healing power of his forgiveness. May the Lord open our eyes and give us a sense of awe and reverence. May the Lord give us grace to persevere during this time of Lent and to do good during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Amen.
+ V. H Phalana