GOD’S LOVING AND MERCIFUL PRESENCE AMONG HIS PEOPLE
First Reading: Exodus 19:2-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 99(100):2-3,5
Second Reading: Romans 5:6-11
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:36-10:8
In a world often shrouded in darkness, where pain, suffering, despair, and uncertainty seem to hold sway, humanity yearns for a glimmer of hope, a beacon of light that can pierce through the clouds of despair. It is during these times that God’s loving and merciful presence emerges, like a radiant sun breaking through the stormy skies, offering solace, comfort, and unwavering support to His people. A truism remains that throughout the ages, across diverse cultures and belief systems, humans have sought a divine connection, a tangible reminder that they are not alone in their struggles. In their quest for meaning, they have discovered a profound truth: God, in His infinite grace, has chosen to dwell among His people, extending His boundless love and mercy to uplift and transform lives. This Sunday, the Church calls us through the liturgical readings to contemplate the profound reality of encountering God’s love and mercy in our lives. God, who initiated the covenant with His people in the Old Testament, continues to reach out to us today, offering us His unconditional love and abundant mercy through Jesus Christ. We are invited to recognize the presence of God among us, His desire for a personal relationship with us, and His call for us to be His instruments of love and mercy in the world.
The First Reading from the book of Exodus (19:2-6) specifically mirrors the Israelites before the divine presence at Sinai and the covenant made with God. The sociological context of the passage reveals already how the Israelites had recently escaped from the evil of slavery and bondage in Egypt and are encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. This passage describes their arrival at the mountain and their preparation to receive the laws and commandments from God. The setting is one of anticipation, as the Israelites await their encounter with the divine. The gathering of the Israelites at Mount Sinai and their subsequent covenant with God marks a pivotal moment in their social and religious development. This event signifies the formation of a covenant community, with God as their sovereign and the Israelites as His chosen people. The passage emphasizes the collective nature of this covenant, highlighting the communal identity and responsibilities of the Israelite nation. The passage portrays the Israelites’ willingness to listen to God’s voice and follow His commandments as they prepare to receive divine instruction.
Similarly, The Responsorial Psalm 99(100) affirms the joyful entry into God’s presence (“Come before Him, singing for joy”), acknowledging that the Lord is our Creator, and we are His people. Coming into the Lord’s presence does not just end there; we know as the Psalmist also tells us in another chapter, that “In the presence of God there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). This becomes concretized and fulfilled in the Gospel Reading from St. Matthew (9:36-10:8). Here, God’s loving presence among men through Jesus’ compassion, healing ministry, commissioning of the disciples, provision, and proclamation of the Kingdom of God is revealed. The passage demonstrates God’s desire to bring comfort, healing, and restoration to the broken and vulnerable, and it invites believers to participate in extending God’s love and presence to others. Matthew stated that Jesus “had compassion for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” This highlights Jesus’ deep empathy and concern for the people. It demonstrates God’s loving presence among us as Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love, shows compassion and care toward those who are struggling, lost, and in need. The passage goes on to describe Jesus’ healing ministry, where He cures diseases and sicknesses and consequently gives his disciples authority over unclean spirits with the power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sicknesses. This showcases God’s loving presence through the restoration and renewal of individuals’ physical and spiritual well-being. Jesus’ acts of healing reveal God’s desire to bring wholeness and abundant life to those who are suffering, emphasizing His love and compassion for humanity. The commissioning of the twelve disciples reveals God’s loving presence among us through the extension of Jesus’ ministry. The disciples are entrusted with continuing the work of compassion, healing, and proclamation (and the need to depend on God’s provision), thereby extending God’s love and presence to others. With their dependence in divine providence, God will take care of their needs and support them as they engage in His work of compassion and healing. Above all, by their proclaiming of the nearness of the Kingdom of God, the sentiment of God’s loving presence and the transformative power of his reign in the lives of individuals and society becomes understood. The climax of God’s loving presence in Christ’s mission was in his death and resurrection, and the essence of this sacred mystery is mirrored and explained in the second reading.
In the Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:6-11). Here, Paul discusses the concept of salvation and reconciliation through Jesus Christ. The passage highlights the love and sacrifice of Christ, the significance of His death, and the resulting benefits for humanity. Here, we see God’s immeasurable love and mercy, demonstrated through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, while humanity was still in sin. Needless to say, when the world was shrouded in the darkness of sin and despair (as stated in my introduction), with humanity’s yearning for a glimmer of hope, a beacon of light pierced through the clouds of despair in the person of the Messiah, – “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to make them adopted as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5). Thus, it was when we were still sinners that God’s loving and merciful presence emerged like a radiant sun breaking through the stormy skies in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Little wonder the Priest Zachariah in prophesying the advent of the Messiah exclaimed: “Through the loving mercy of our God, the rising Sun has come to visit us.” (Lk. 1:78)
Dear friends in Christ, God’s loving and merciful presence extends beyond individual experiences to collective communities and nations. In the face of adversity, societies have found solace in the unity fostered by their shared faith, drawing strength from the assurance that God walks beside them in their journey through the efforts of great missionaries. It is in these moments of togetherness that His presence is most palpable, transforming the impossible into the possible, and granting the resilience needed to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. As we navigate the complexities of life, it is crucial to acknowledge and embrace God’s loving and merciful presence among us. It is an invitation to forge a deep and intimate relationship with the divine, to seek solace in His guidance, and to extend compassion and mercy to others. Embracing this divine connection brings forth a sense of purpose, empowerment, and an unyielding hope that transcends the limitations of our mortal existence.
Dearest friends in Christ, God’s loving and merciful presence stands as a beacon of hope, a guiding light that illuminates our lives and instills in us the courage to face the darkest of days. It is a powerful and awesome revelation that reminds us that we are never alone, and that in our trials and triumphs, God’s love shines brightly. As missionary-disciples of Christ, may we continually shine as light, revealing the face of Christ in the lives of our brothers and sister. It is only then that the “evil spirits” of our world would be expelled, the sick would be cured, and peace would be restored in our chaotic world. May we open our hearts, embrace His presence, and become vessels of His boundless love and mercy, as we navigate the tapestry of life’s journey.
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© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo.
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?