At various moments in the Old Testament, God gives us glimpses of who He is. Today, in the first reading from Exodus, God tells His chosen People: “I am a jealous God.” But Scripture scholars say the word “jealous” is an inaccurate translation. The more accurate word, the telling word is “passionate.” God burns with desire for the people He has created. What a remarkable, humbling thought!
The passionate God of all people and all times is most fully present in Jesus, as he is revealed in the Gospel. The disciples must have been horrified when they saw Jesus charging into the temple, tipping over the tables of the money-changers, driving out traders and scattering animals – a forceful and frightening scene. So unlike the Jesus they had come to know!
Just when we are comfortable ourselves, Jesus may well come crashing into our lives, challenging us to sweep out anything that hinders our relationship with God.
Jesus, the passionate God, doesn’t want us to be laid back about what really matters in life.
But what really matters? He told us: The wholehearted love of God and one another…no exceptions.
In these troublesome national and international times, we are tempted to close ranks – to love and protect those close to us, those who belong to us. We erroneously label some people enemies, and treat them as such. Turbulent times will take their course, but we must make our own course.
In the first reading today, we are given the foundation – the very least we can be and do as we make our course through life. Our passionate God says: live out the commandments.
The commandments are not 10 suggestions, not 10 burdens. They are not the ideal or the best we can do in life. They are the very least we can do to be on course to love our God and our neighbor wholeheartedly. It’s the work of a lifetime to try to hold people close and to treasure our beautiful world as God does.
A few years ago, I stood on a boardwalk over the sand dunes at Cape May, NJ, and watched a storm build up over the place where the Delaware River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The thunder crashed, lightening sliced the sky and the winds flung voracious waves against the shore.
A little way off, to my left, on one of those high wooden chairs that lifeguards use, sat a man holding his small daughter. They were huddled under a blue slicker, their faces rapt as they experienced the storm. The little girl, secure in her father’s arms, showed no fear, but only awe.
I hold that image in my heart these days, for it pictures nothing less than God, holding us close…all of us, refugees and immigrants, people trapped in the violence of Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. God, passionate about us, without exception. What will our response be?
~Sister Joan Sobala