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The Chosen People

 

JMJ

The Jews are called The Chosen People. They were chosen by God to be the instrument by which he would come into the world.

In the first reading, at the end of their 40 year odyssey in the desert, Moses is addressing ….the Chosen People.

He tells them, at the beginning of a new odyssey, that in obeying the commandments of the Lord, they would be a great example to the nations and would enjoy a great status in the world. They would be looked up to, and enjoy great prestige among all the peoples of the earth.

How did they do?

In the Gospel, Jesus said that they didn’t do very well at all. He quotes an ancient passage from the prophet Isaiah in saying that the chosen people ….give great “lip service” to God, but that their hearts are really far from him. And,because of this, he said, they worshipped in vain. They were basically wasting their time.

Yes, as we look back in history at story of our spiritual ancestors, we might be inclined to say that they were indeed “chosen” . Paradoxically, chosen to show the rest of us…. an example of how to behave, and how not to behave.

Yet despite their failures, their legacy continues to this day, particularly here in America, where you will find images of Moses in our government buildings where He and the 10 Commandments are often displayed. (At least for the time being.)

As a matter of fact, it’s even easy to say that America is the “New Chosen People”. We could easily say that of Christians in general, but the United States in particular. Our country, which was founded on Christian values, has been blessed in some remarkable ways. From our beginning, we became a City on a Hill, a beacon for all people. And people flocked here from around the world to be part of our great spiritual adventure.

2001 was a big year for me. In April, finished a 4 year odyssey in the seminary preparing for  the priesthood. In early May, my father died, on the day I was to graduate. My new odyssey continued in June when I was ordained, but my heart was wounded. My faith was shaken. Dad really wanted to be there for my ordination.

I began my assignment in Howell at Saint Joe’s and before too long God gave me a consolation that gave me the encouragement to go forward.

In early September of that first year, on a bright, sunny, Tuesday morning, I watched the great tragedy unfold. It was 9/11 and like many other priests and ministers, Fr. Bill and I were suddenly faced with trying to make some sense of it to our congregation.

But our first challenge was with the children.  It happened on a school day, and I was sure the kids were terribly confused and upset wondering what all this meant. I was in Dearborn with my mom and so I raced back. My immediate reaction to this evil deed was, naturally, I think, that the devil was behind it.

And it reminded me of something that happened many years earlier in my childhood. The day that President Kennedy was killed. That tragic event made me wonder too. What was that all about? Was it just a random act by an evil man trying to make a name for himself? Or was there something bigger at work? It was all very mysterious.

By the time the 60’s were over and I was able to look back on all of the chaos of those ten years, I really began to wonder. I mean, really, what was going on? Was it the devil, or was it God ? Was He somehow… trying to get our attention?

By then I was maturing in my spiritual life, and was doing lots of bible reading, researching the words of the mystics, and reflecting, and praying, and I begin to think in terms of divine retribution. In other words, was God at least trying to get our attention, or was he actually punishing us? This was a controversial notion, and I was reluctant to share it. But occasionally, id did. And I paid a price.

Now, as for the 60’s, I learned of two interesting things happened right there at the beginning. The pill, or contraception, and a major Supreme Court decision. The “pill” changed a lot of things in our lives. It was the tool that fired the Sexual Revolution by enabling and encouraging promiscuity. Therefore morality declined as we began to change the way we see each other. People, especially women, began to be seen as mere objects. Objects of sexual gratification.

The Supreme Court decision declared that it was unconstitutional to pray in public schools. I began to see that event as a slap in God’s face. A slap by the wisest legal minds of our country. But God does not infringe on our free will.

So then, one might conclude that all of the chaos of the 60’s was simply a result of God not answering prayers ….that were really no longer being prayed. And so, the wall of protection that would have otherwise encircled us, was now crumbling.

Again, I would share my theories with others and I actually think that some people thought I was some kind of a nut. A preacher of doom and gloom. And I was ridiculed. That hurts of course, and I began to do some second-guessing. Maybe I should keep this to myself. This was especially true in the seminary. years.

Well, a lot has happened since then. There were two more significant Supreme Court decisions to come. One legalizing abortion and, the most recent just a few weeks ago, legalizing same-sex “marriage”. God, now slapped in the face, three separate times by America’s wisest men, and now women.

In addition, consider all the negative changes in the American culture since 1960. Instead of America being a city on a hill, giving good example to all, it was now descending into darkness, and we as a country were becoming all those things that were listed at the end of today’s gospel. 

 So, anyway,  I’ve been feeling kind of vindicated lately with  my spin on things. I think that many people are getting a foreboding sense that we are on the verge of something really bad. Could it be a new and more terrible world war? There’s been lots of sabre – rattling lately from places like North Korea and Ukraine, and of course with the ISIS terrorists.

Declining morality, the break-up of the family, mass shootings, human trafficking, pornography, addictions, sinkholes and tsunamis,
fires, tornadoes, and storms of the century. More and more people are really wondering. 

Last week someone gave me another book. They said that that I just had to read it. I had never heard of it despite it being on the NY Times bestseller list a few years ago. It still remains popular. It’s called The Harbinger. ( this particular book is called The Harbinger Companion, a sequel ) But the original is a novel based on the personal experience and research of a messianic Jewish rabbi named Jonathan Cahn.   “Messianic” means that he is a Jew who has converted to Christianity. He’s now a member of the new “Chosen People”.

A “harbinger” is a warning, a foreshadowing of something to come, and his premise is that there are parallels between the tragic story of the ancient “chosen people” and the modern “chosen people” , that is, us, the U.S. The United States of America.

And I think he may have actually proven his point. He is quite precise in pointing out the signs, or harbingers, that occurred in ancient Israel that led to their eventual destruction. But he sees those very same warnings happening in our own country, and have been since 9-11, 2001. Signs that could  potentially lead  to our destruction just like it led to theirs. He claims that 9-11 was not a punishment from God, but only a mere warning. In fact, only the first of many warnings that have occurred since.

I first encountered Rabbi Cahn earlier this summer on one of those e-mails that one of you sent to me. He delivered an address to members of Congress, under the dome of the US Capital in Washington, on the day after the Supreme Court began hearing the arguments regarding same sex marriage. It was quite a sermon, and I wondered, who  is this guy? He was good. He was “pumped”. It was only after I saw his picture on the book that I began to put two and two together.

 There’s too much to his story to lay out here but maybe I could say a few things that might whet your appetite for more , or, on the other hand, scare the bejeebers out of you. The one thing that the rabbi cleared up for me is actually something that I preached about before. I had said that the devil was behind it all. But then I had implied that God also seemed to be correcting, or even punishing.

I even pointed out once that the second reading from the Office of Readings, the official universal prayer of the Church, for Tuesday, September 11th 2001, was a message from God to the Israelites through the prophet Habakkuk. I’ll give you just one line. God said,

“Look over the nations and see!Be utterly amazed!For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe, were it told. For now I am raising up the Chaldeans,that bitter and impulsive people,who march the breadth of the land to take dwellings not their own.”

There’s more. It gets better. Or should I say It gets worse. Check it out yourself.

 I’ve put something on Fr. Johns Links on our (new)website, and Shawnie ordered some books for the bookstore. Or you could Google his name and see what comes up. He’s all over YouTube. But I think you should consider it a homework assignment.

 

So what might we conclude with? Well, as Rabbi Cahn pointed out in his book, there is always hope. The purpose of a harbinger after all, is to offer hope. We can change things, if we change. There is always room for ongoing conversion.

Secondly, the Rabbi helped clarify in my mind what the mechanics of the whole thing was about. He said that God gave the Jews harbingers to help persuade them to turn back to him. ( Return to Me and I will return to you.) They instead became defiant and refused. It was then that God, finally, as a last resort,  opened the “hedge” that had always protected them. He did this in stages. Finally as a very, very,  last resort, he removed the hedge, the grace of his protection, and it was then that the devil and his minions acted through the Assyrians who destroyed Israel.     This incidentally happened several times throughout history.

 OK. How about if we were to start with us. You and me personally? As individuals? I think it would be good if each of us, young and old, addressed the words of Isaiah, and Jesus, in today’s Gospel and ask ourselves, “Do I really love God, Is my heart with him, or am I just giving mere “lip service” to Him? Am I wasting His time? Are we wasting our time even being here this morning? Are we worshipping in vain?

 What about our families? Remember that passage from Joshue last week? The people were asked to make a choice between following the Lord, or following the false gods. Joshue said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” A good starting point for us. Are you men out there, as heads of your families, prepared to say the same? And then  really do something about it?

Lastly, we are on the verge of an election year where we will be called upon to choose new leaders to lead us into the future. I’ve heard the candidates discuss just about everything under the sun, except a new moral direction for our country. Are there no moral leaders out there?

This is where we had better fast, pray, and make reparation for our sins and the sins of our country, and the poor choices we have made in choosing those who have led us in the past. There is always hope. Now, please, go, and do your homework.

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