Psalms 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
On July 22, I attended a prayer service celebrating the life of St. Mary of Magdala, the woman to whom Christ chose to reveal himself after his resurrection and the woman he chose to proclaim his resurrection to the Apostles. Unfortunately, tradition has overshadowed Mary's role as "apostle to the apostles" (St. Augustine) with a mislabeling of her as a prostitute who repented and was forgiven by Jesus. One of the prayer participants questioned why it was so difficult for the Church at large to embrace Mary of Magdala as the first witness to Christ's resurrection (as reported in all four gospels) rather than persisting in the ongoing focus on the false identity of her as a repentant prostitute. The problem of "letting go" of what we know (or think we knew) in exchange for new (or true) information seems to be an ongoing challenge for us as humans.
In today's reading from Exodus, the Israelites are caught worshiping the golden calf in the desert. Moses is extremely angry at their unfaithfulness and at Aaron's succumbing to the pressure of the people to return to their former ways. The Israelites were tired of waiting for Moses to return from the mountain; they were frustrated and felt abandoned by the man who led them into the desert with promises of a new life. So they returned to their old ways, putting their trust in other gods, represented by the golden calf. They wanted clear direction, answers and a fulfillment of the promises - NOW!
At times, I can identify with the Israelites sense of exhaustion, frustration and impatience. How often do we find ourselves working on a project or a cause of social justice, expecting that surely we will succeed if we persist in doing the right things to further the cause or event. When we have setbacks or run into obstacles, the temptation to lose faith in ourselves, in others, and even in our God is strong.
Yet, in Matthew's gospel today, Jesus reminds us that what is of God will take a long time. The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed which grows into a great tree. Or, the fulfillment of God's plan is like a large measure of flour which rises with the presence of a small amount of yeast. In both parables, time is of the essence. One cannot hurry the growth of the tree or the rising of the dough. Anyone who tries to force either knows that this is a futile exercise.
Patience, trust, and inviting God into our work, our lives, and our work for justice will not be easy or necessarily fruitful according to our timelines. When I get discouraged by the slowness of success of my efforts for what I believe is 'of God,' I am reminded of a prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero: " It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.... We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."
Perhaps this is the real measure of what is 'of God' - to invite
God into what we do, trust that it is truly 'of God,' work as hard as we
are able for what is 'of God,' and then 'let go, and let God.'
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