BEFORE THE CROSS | God awaits our response to His plan for us

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

The readings in the past week give us a shortened version of the entire Exodus story. The Israelites begin the week in slavery; they end the week in freedom.

The opening of the readings from Exodus strengthens our faith. Exodus 1 details a great calamity: How the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians after 400 years of living peacefully in their midst. Exodus 2 relates the birth of Moses: God's people are oppressed, but the plan for their deliverance is set in motion. It will take several years for that plan to ripen to its fullness. But God is at work to deliver his people.

That's a great lesson for us when we face calamities.

The Gospel readings for last week -- drawn from Matthew -- also present a great lesson for us. Jesus has completed a cycle of teaching and healing in chapters 5-10. Now He reproaches "the towns where most of His mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented" (Matthew 11: 20). God Himself had come into their midst to tell them the Good News, with signs to show that what He was saying was true. How did they respond? They refused to believe. They didn't want to give up their sins and follow Him. Jesus simply says: There will be consequences.

In fact, there's a similar pattern in the Exodus story. Moses came to Egypt to announce God's plan. Time and time again, Pharaoh and the Israelites were given the opportunity to respond. Israel accepted; Pharaoh refused. At the Passover the consequences became clear: the first born of the Egyptians were struck down, while the Israelites were saved by the blood of the lamb.

Again and again in the Old Testament, the consequences of saying yes or no to God are made evident within people's lifetimes. Again and again in the New Testament, Jesus says that the most important consequences will become evident on judgment day. The choice is ours: Will we believe Him and follow Him, or not? Either way, there will be consequences.

On July 14, we celebrated the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Sometimes known as "the Lily of the Mohawks," she was the first Native American to be declared a saint. She's also a great example of the consequences of following Jesus.

As a convert, Kateri was ridiculed for her Catholic faith by her people. She also went against the customs of her tribe regarding marriage, in order to give herself faithfully and completely to Jesus.

Though her face was scarred by smallpox from the age of 4, eyewitnesses report that a few minutes after her death her face became pure and radiant, with the scars disappearing. The priest who witnessed her death wrote that his first thought was that her soul may have entered heaven at that moment, and her body had received a foretaste of the glory of her soul in heaven.

It's another sign for us that there are consequences -- for our souls and our bodies -- of saying yes or no to Jesus. The choice is ours.

"I have deliberated long enough. For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus."

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's calendar

Monday, July 20

11:45 a.m. Mass at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Tuesday, July 21

5 p.m. Mass and reception for Mount Marty College alumni at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Wednesday, July 22

3 p.m. Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri priest advisory committee meeting

Thursday, July 23

9 a.m. Ministry Team Advisers planning day

Friday, July 24

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Priest Day at the archbishop's residence

Saturday, July 25

5 p.m. Installation of Father Brad Modde as pastor at St. Simon the Apostle Church.

Sunday, July 26

9 a.m. Centennial Mass at St. George Church 

Bishop Edward M. Rice's calendar

Thursday, July 23

9 a.m. Ministry Team Advisors meeting at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Friday, July 24

11:45 a.m. Mass at Notre Dame Motherhouse

Saturday, July 25

5 p.m. Humanae Vitae Mass at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Sunday, July 26

9 a.m. Mass at Notre Dame Motherhouse 

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