Friday, January 18, 2013

on guard

Hebrews 4;1-5,11; Ps 78 Do not forget the works of the Lord; Mark 2:1-12

"Let us be on guard while the promise of entering his rest remains, that none of you seemed to have failed...Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience."

The two lines above are the bookends of the words of St. Paul today in the letter of Hebrews.

There is a sense of the possibility of losing or being lost caught up in his language.

To be on guard suggest a need to be cautious, careful, alert, vigilant, observant because there might be a situation that is dangerous or danger is or may be lurking.

Why the need for such insistence on St. Paul's part?  What could possibly go wrong?  If we accept Jesus as Lord, then why the need for this constant alertness and precipitous caution?

The importance is garnered from the context, something that many of fail to notice as we glimpse through the pages of scripture.

Remember int he context of Paul's letter he is directing the hearers or in this case readers back to the desert wanderings.  He is speaking in particular of Israel's infidelity.

When on the verge of entering the promised land, the lord ordered Moses to send men to reconnoiter the land, to scout out what was beyond the jordan.  (numbers 13-14)

On their return there were a few naysayers who were trying to convince the rest of the folks to disregard what God had said about giving the land and people over into their hands.

With a few negative remarks from a few naysayers the whole community broke out in loud cries, grumbling against Moses and aaron and but more importantly began to express their own disbelief in God's ability to lead them as he told them he would, "WHy is the LORD bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword?" Num 14:1-4.

Here in lies the sin of the nation of Israel. After having witness to enormity of God's power and how God rescued them from slavery and fed them with mana for 40 years, now on the verge of receiving God's reward they get weak in the knees and bail on their faith and trust.

This is the context in which Paul speaks these words today to us.

The danger that he speaks of is not so much out side of us but rather inside of us.  We, in our own journey, can be our worst enemies.

In the words of St. Philip Neri, "Lord, watch out for Philip, He betray you today."

THis is why Paul invites us to be cautious, alert, attentive, vigilant.

Quickly in a flash doubt and fear can take over our hearts.  In just a few moments, our faith can begin to unravel.

This is why it is so important to make an act of faith daily, to reconfirm our faith in the living God and entrust our life to him no matter the circumstances.

It is also important not to give in to the naysayers around us feeding us the darkness of distrust.

This is why we must be on guard.

The term on guard is used in fencing by the referee so the participants know they should get ready for the bout for the fighting is about to commence.

St. Paul is simply being the referee and getting us in the proper posture and stance for the bout, a bout that is often against our own interior doubts and worries and distrust.

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