Opportunities for a Divine Encounter
Jul 22, 2016
In the first reading of today's Mass Abraham looks up to see three men standing nearby and he runs to them to beg them to stay that he might give them water to wash their feet and some food to nourish them. It is a remarkable moment in that Abraham knows that he is being visited by God. "Now that you have come this close to your servant " he says to the three men as he invites them to partake of his hospitality. One of Abraham's characteristics is that he talks with God in a very familiar way, as if God is standing next to him speaking to him face to face, but in this story we get a vague description of this presence: three men. There is not that much that describes them, but Abraham knows that this is a Divine visitation and runs to the opportunity of the encounter.
After the Israelites spend 400 years enslaved to the Egyptians Moses is called to lead the people into the Promised Land. It had been promised to Abraham and in the time of this fulfillment it is now given to his descendants. When God begins to introduce himself to them they tremble and fall on their faces. They tell Moses that he should go talk with God and then tell them what God has to say. This changed the way that God interacted with people. He became distant and unavailable to the common person. Only the special intermediaries could speak for him. There developed a whole priestly class who lead the worship of the people and offered sacrifices for them.
When Jesus came one of his highest praises was to call different people "sons of Abraham"; he never called anyone a son of Moses. Jesus came to restore a very disordered relationship between God and humanity. In John's Gospel Jesus enters into a dialogue with a people in which he says: "It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it is to come to me." (Jn 6:45-46) Jesus came to restore the intimacy with the Father that Abraham enjoyed. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us where he will be found: in the hungry, naked, those in prison, those who are sick, and those who are hungry, in other words in those who tend to live on the edges of life for whatever reason.
In this country of prosperity it can be tempting to look at those on the margins of life and blame them for the situation of their lives. However I wonder if they might be providing us opportunities for the Divine Encounter in our lives. As children of Abraham we do have the potential to encounter God just as he did. We have only to look up and recognize him standing in front of us.