Today’s Old Testament reading sounds a bit scary: “You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.” The last lines are particularly ominous: “So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
I am always surprised when I read about all the trouble the Israelites were always getting into. They were God’s Chosen People, delivered by Him from the power of the Egyptians and led to the land He had promised them. They had ample opportunity to witness the power and miracles of God, and Moses and the prophets gave them clear rules to follow to please Him. Yet they were continually falling into sin, particularly that of worshipping the false gods of the cultures around them.
But are we so different? Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Irenaeus, a Doctor of the Church who was instrumental in fighting the heresy of Gnosticism. He reminds us of the seductive quality of evil when he writes, “Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.”
We may not be worshipping golden statues or sacrificing people to Baal nowadays, but don’t we let attractive worldly things come between us and God? Perhaps it’s money, or power, or romance, or status, or even being right instead of being kind. You alone know what your idols are, but we all have them.
We live in difficult and confusing times. We spend much of our time on social media consuming other people’s opinions. People we respect share ideas that seem to make sense. We are bombarded by messages designed to ensnare our hearts and minds. It can be hard to discern what is factual, let alone what is Truth. Politics and opinions can be idols too.
Just like the apostles in today’s Gospel, we are battered by the storm around us. It can be easy to laugh at their fear. After all, they had Jesus right there in the boat with them! How could they be afraid that He would allow them to sink?
Well, I have news for you. Jesus is in our boats too. And while, as the Psalmist reminds us, He is a God of justice, we also know that his judgment is tempered with mercy. When we turn from our idols, He will be there waiting for us.
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
May you feel that calm in your life today.
Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.
Feature Image Credit: falco, pixabay.com/photos/christian-picture-historical-bible-2579648/