My dear parishioners, the Hebrews, who had wandered nomadically in the desert for forty years, were about to become very wealthy. God was preparing to give his people the land of Canaan. Not as a recognition of their own merits or powers. Rather, God chose the Hebrews to be a people peculiarly his own. The historical, foundational event which forever marked this unique relationship was the Hebrews' exodus from Egyptian slavery. The meaning of this event was ratified by the people’s acceptance of God's commandments at Mount Sinai.
The unique relationship between God and his chosen people was enshrined by the formal acceptance of a
, the meaning of which is virtually unknown to our secular society today. The Israelites were a covenantal people:
FOR YOU are
a people holy to the Lord
your God; the Lord
your God has chosen you
to be a people
his own possession
, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that
the Lord set his love upon you
and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples. [Deu 7:6-7]
Of greater consequence than the extraordinary gifts of land and a future, however, was the divine
. Though the Hebrews readily consented to receive “milk and honey” from God, they would struggle throughout their history to truly understand God as gift-giver. If you are married, you will understand, more readily perhaps than those who are not, the nuptial character of God’s relationship with his people: God's declaration of love, the integrity of his choice of Israel, his unchanging oath or vow, the everlasting mark of his friendship, the exaltation of his beloved, and the giving of noble gifts.
The ancient Israelites possessed the Promised Land, because they committed to a higher reality, a holiness originating quite outside of themselves. In turn, God accepted this nomadic people for his own possession because they recognized him to be the source and exemplar of purity. The Israelites found fulfillment in fruitful land, abundant harvests, great flocks and herds, and many sons. [cf. Deu 7:13]
It is no accident that Jesus equated purity of heart with being able to see God. [Mat 5:8] No hunger exceeds man’s desire for perfect union with God in the unsurpassed loveliness of heaven. When your own struggle for holiness becomes intense and difficult, realize that the stakes are very high. But also realize that what you have to overcome is merely a fraction of all that our Lord Jesus Christ must contend against.
Yet, take heart. Our Lord defeated the power of sin and death on the cross, and in the end he will vanquish and destroy Satan himself and all vestiges of his evil realm. In the meantime, the principalities and powers of Satan are battling St. Michael and the heavenly host for the possession of your soul. You must not weary of working for righteousness.
You must not despair of becoming holy. Your commitment to sanctification is so profound a response to our heavenly father that even one’s anguish at not achieving his or her desired perfection is received lovingly by God as the “holiness of desire”. Your simplest act of holiness outshines the stars of heaven. Your smallest effort towards purity strikes fear throughout the whole of Satan's desolate empire. You must not lose hope. Sincerely in the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Your pastor, Reverend Richard Barker.
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Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Auxiliary Msgr. George Sheltz
Retired Auxilliary Vincent Rizzotto
Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza
Reverend Richard Barker