By John De Gano
“Stay awake. Be ready.”
Wise words from Jesus yet do we heed them?
Have you ever seen something you couldn’t believe was real and had to touch it to confirm your vision?
Moses and the burning bush leaps to mind. He was minding his own business (looking for a lost sheep) when he happened upon something out of the ordinary. He drew closer and realized the bush was on fire, yet it wasn’t being consumed by the flames, which to his mind would have been the normal consequence of flame and wood.
In Moses’ case, he had the added distinction of hearing God call out to him. “Remove your shoes. This place is Holy Ground!”
Few of us can claim to have heard God’s voice speaking to us, let alone from a bush.
We would most likely be intrigued if we did and then would probably faint away at the shock of the encounter.
Well, every day we have the opportunity to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. To hear his words of consecration spoken over the bread and wine, changing their substance into his Body and Blood, his Soul and Divinity; a miracle just as amazing as an unconsuming fire…
Yet, too few of us regularly take advantage of this encounter. We treat it as if it weren’t really the Lord God, himself. We figure we can catch it on Sunday so why the rush? We seem to have lost the wonder and awe of the infinite God coming to us in such a tiny piece of bread or a sip of wine.
Moses was awestruck when he encountered the Lord. Do we need God to do the same to us in order to get our attention?
The Bible is full of stories where an angel bearing a message appeared to someone only to have to knock ‘em along the side of the head to get their full attention.
The Jewish patriarch Jacob wound up wrestling with an angel.
Zechariah, the high priest, protested at the announcement that his wife Elizabeth (cousin of Mary) would bear a son. He was struck mute until his son, John, was born and named. Only after confirming the child’s name to the townsfolk (“His name is John”) was Zechariah’s tongue loosened.
And Saul was on his way to persecute the early Christians when he was knocked to the ground by bright light and temporarily blinded. The Lord then spoke to him, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul (now called Paul) would eventually have his sight restored, become a follower of Jesus and go on to be one of the great missionaries to the Gentiles for the Church.
But first Paul’s huge ego had to be deflated. He had to be thunderstruck, astonished, dumbfounded. Only then, once God had his full attention (as with Moses and the burning bush), was Paul willing to listen.
Are we like that sometimes?
If we feel ourselves just going through the motions maybe it’s time to wake up, To heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
“Seek the Lord while he is near…” -- (Is 55:6)
Or else, take the chance that the rumbling in the distance isn’t meant for you.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.