SATURDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
READ: EZEKIEL 37:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD: I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have come, and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land. I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God. My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees. They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where their fathers lived; they shall live on it forever, they, and their children, and their children's children, with my servant David their prince forever. I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.
It is easy to read this passage and get a little lost in all the talk of nations and kingdoms and servants. But at the heart of this passage is a Father who is speaking words of a plan, His plan, for His people. He speaks of a plan that involves unity, peace, provision, leadership, fruitfulness, belonging, freedom. And this plan is not just for the nation of Israel, but is for each one of us.
In March of 2010, Bishop Josef Clemens gave a homily that focused on this passage from Scripture. In that homily, Bishop Clemens said this: "Do not ever forget that God is the God of Life. Open your heart to God’s promises and to the life plan He has for you. When making decisions, remember that God has established his dwelling among us, that He is close to you. Go and consult with Him. Give to his words – words that can sometimes be so gentle – more credit than you give to the rough words of this world. Do not take other 'gods' as ideals or examples. Do not forget or ever betray your vocation through which you belong to the people of God! On this depends whether others can recognize in you the presence and the deeds of the invisible God!"
Mull over these words, line by line. Do you really believe that God has a plan for your life? In the midst of making difficult or simple daily decisions, do you remember that God is close to you? Do you seek His counsel or are there others that you turn to first? Are His the words that you take to heart most? Do you take other "gods" as ideals or examples? Can other recognize in you God's presence?
These questions may force us to realize that we have placed ourselves and our plan at the center of our lives. These questions may reveal to us that we lack trust in the plan of the Father and put our confidence in other people or ourselves. If this is the case, let us not be discouraged by our lack of trust, but turn in gratitude to our Father who has revealed these things to us this day. For in revealing these things, He wants to remind us that He is "the God of Life", whose plan brings us life, peace, freedom, love. Today, let us open our hearts to our good Father.
Why is it hard to open our hearts to God's promises and His life plan?
How can you learn to remember that God is with you when you are making decisions?
What "rough words of the world" have sunk deep into your heart? How can you let Jesus' gentle words replace those?
How are you lacking trust in God's plan?
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock. Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock. The LORD shall ransom Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD's blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen. Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows. R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
What will you take from your prayer today?