Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b
The blessings we enjoy from God are so overwhelming that we gradually lose our capacity to react to them. From the initial creative activity whereby God drew this wonderful universe of ours out of sheer nothingness, to the present time, God’s blessings have accumulated to the point where no calculating device can begin to tally them. As a result, we fall into ways of taking them for granted, since we have no other suitable manner of formulating an adequate response for them.
But there at least two issues of a rather delicate nature in this regard: first, God’s blessings are not equally distributed among us; and second, most of us who have been gifted abuse what we’ve received.
We hear of these mishaps in today’s scriptures. In the Exodus reading, we hear about one of God’s great blessings getting underway: the deliverance/exodus of the Hebrew people from their captivity in Egypt for the journey to the Promised Land. This blessed event happened only to the Hebrew people (not to other captive peoples throughout the world of that era); hence, they’ve come to be called The Chosen People. Chosen indeed, because so manifestly blessed, as is presented in today’s reading describing their assembly for their first encounter with the God Who is calling them out of slavery into freedom. We may wonder: why them, and not some other people?
In addition, despite the reverence, awe and trepidation accompanying their gathering at the foot of Mt. Sinai, for their first encounter with the God Who is leading them to freedom, we know that days are coming when they will flagrantly overlook and even complain about the great blessings that have been lavished on them by God. And, yet, they remain blessed by God, the Chosen people.
The day’s gospel touches on the same issue: why some and not others? The issue is the parables Jesus uses to speak to the people. They are rich in meaning but their wealth has to be deciphered and mined. The disciples put the question to Jesus: why do some get to understand these sayings He presents, while others do not? Ultimately, it is again a question of chosenness, with those not so privileged seeming to be penalized ("even what he has will be taken away"). But, once again, those of us gifted with Jesus’ explanation of these parables can abuse or disregard them.
So we count our blessings, and thank God for them, seeking to treasure them with fear and anxiety since we lack all initiative before the gifts of God: we cannot demand them, nor can we guarantee we will treasure them all the days of our life. Their growth and increase lies beyond us. But we can pray: "Give us this day our daily bread."
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.