Summary: We may not see Christ's triumphant presence in our lives, but He will give us the grace of faith to know that He is always here.
Monday of 16th Week in Course
Evil and adulterous generations are always seeking signs. That is to say, people who resist the call of Jesus say, “I’ll reform my ways when I see something that unequivocally tells me that I’m wrong.” They are looking for crosses in the sky, or thunderous voices from heaven, changing rocks into bread and saints floating above the altar. But the sign that Jesus gave is a sign that will only appeal to those open to the gift of faith, His own resurrection. God does not force our belief, because we are made in His own image, and are called to be restored to that image. Since we are in God's image, we have been given the gifts of intellect and free will. That means our intellects may not be constrained to believe the truth, even though they are attracted always to the truth. And our free wills must be respected. God does not compel belief in Him, particularly through miraculous signs. That would be a horrible disrespect.
The sign of the resurrection that He gives us is the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the visible sign of the resurrection we believe in. In this sacrament, our bodies and souls and spirits are brought into intimate contact with the Risen Christ. Different Christians believe differently about the sacrament, but they all believe that Jesus's words, “This is my body. . .this is my blood” are not without meaning, and not without effect.
But remember that the word sacramentum is the Latin equivalent of mysterion, the mystery of faith. That is why the celebrant invites us to proclaim the mystery of faith during His prayer of thanksgiving. That is why the last words of the prayer are a reminder of Christ's presence and a praise to the Blessed Trinity.
With the respect that God shows us in mind, we can now look at the reading we heard from Exodus. The people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. Through mighty signs of His power and His love for that people, God tried to soften Pharaoh's heart and encourage him to let His people go, to relieve their slavery. He wouldn't even do that for a few days, but worked the Hebrews even harder. Each of the plagues that God subjected Egypt to was a little more uncomfortable than the previous ones. He, little by little, pried open the Pharaoh's heart. But it would not open up, and Pharaoh would not liberate God's people. Finally, God had enough. Instead of a pry bar, God used a sledgehammer. He took down all the best, the firstborn, of the Egyptians, but spared the Hebrews. Under this threat, Pharaoh kicked them out.
I can imagine the meeting the day after construction work stopped and the fields were not being worked by those thousands of slaves. Pharoah's council of economic advisers came in and asked “What have you done? Our economy is crashing. Businesses can't find help and you let all those people just stop working and leave.” So Pharaoh said, “I was under a lot of pressure; I just lost my son. Let's mobilize the army and force them back.” So they put together their horses and charioteers and equipment and set off in pursuit.
We'll see the ultimate result tomorrow, but today the focus is on the two great powers, the tyrant who can only hate and threaten and compel obedience stands outside the Hebrew camp. The God of love who can only give and save resides in the camp, symbolized by a pillar of cloud and fire. The people are seized with fear of the threat they can see outside, and start to turn back. Moses prophesies deliverance. Who will capture the free will of the people?
We may often be in the same position. Some creditor, or physician, or business competitor stands as a threat to your family, or your reputation, or your joy. You know the right course, the godly choice, but it's difficult to accept. God's counsel is not to fear, to believe in His presence, to take comfort and courage from His undying love. That is what we celebrate today. We may not see Christ's triumphant presence in our lives, but He will give us the grace of faith to know that He is always here.