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IHS Fourth Sunday after Pentecost—7 July AD 2019 Ave Maria!

Geographical Note: Lake Genesereth in northern Israel is also known variously as Lake Tiberias (after the Roman Emperor), the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Genesar, Sea of Kinneret, Sea of Kinnereth, and the Sea of Minya. It is a fresh water sea that feeds the River Jordan, which in turn feeds the Dead Sea in the south of Israel. Many of the Gospel accounts take place on or around the lake, which served as a source of food and a means of transportation.

Map: [1]

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“And the multitude pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God.”[2]

One of the things we notice about the Jewish people, when we read about them in Sacred Scripture, is their interest—perhaps “hunger” is a better word—their hunger for the word of God. In the Gospel today, a crushing multitude lines the shore of Lake Genesereth. To maintain order, and to be heard by everyone in the crowd, our Lord is forced to board one of the fishing boats, and back off a few yards from the shore. We hear similar stories throughout the Gospels. Crowds followed Him so far into the desert that there was concern about where to get food to feed them. At other times, He had to climb a little ways up a mountain in order to make contact with the vast crowd.

A question that might occur to us is: “Why does God speak to His people at all?” That is a fair question, because we know that human beings can know God and His natural moral law without the benefit of revelation—without having received God's word, or any sort of direct communication. Man knows that God exists by virtue of the motion and order and causality in the universe; he sees these things at all levels; with the microscope, or the telescope, or just with his unaided vision. He knows a good deal of the natural moral law just by pondering what is necessary to make society work; it is pretty clear that things would just fall apart if we all went around killing, or stealing, or lying to one another.

And if we can know these things; God's existence, and His law;, it isn't unreasonable to ask: “Why does God speak to His people at all?” The answer isn't all that complicated. While it may be possible for all of us to know God and His law with our human reason, that doesn't mean that we all will actually take the time and trouble to reason these things out. And God knows that. And, He knows also that human morality is a complex thing, complicated by a variety of inter-related difficulties. [Just watch the soap-operas!] Even well meaning, and clear thinking people, don't always get it correct.

So, God has chosen to enlighten us personally. First through the prophets of the Old Testament; people like Moses, through whom God revealed His moral law; people like Jeremias, Daniel, and Ezechiel, through whom God predicted the future trials and tribulations of His people; and through people like Isaias, through whom God revealed information about the coming Redeemer.

But it wasn't good enough for God just to reveal His truths through others. “In the fullness of time,” as it says, “God sent His only begotten Son,” who spent thirty-three years on this earth, with three of them devoted almost exclusively to spreading the word of God.[3] He came to correct some of the misconceptions that people had from less personal revelations: God is a God of love, not of fear; the bond of matrimony is a sacred one, not to be loosed as easily as Moses had permitted the Israelites to do; the Sabbath is made for men, not men for the Sabbath, and so forth. And He sent His Son to reconfigure His worship: no longer would animals be offered in sacrifice, for they would be replaced with the one sacrifice of the Cross in Holy Mass; Baptism would replace circumcision; people could now do positive good in the sight of God, earning reward for their good deeds and for the frequent reception of the Sacraments; man could now look forward to the day of resurrection and eternal happiness in heaven.

Our Lord Himself never wrote down any of His teachings. He always gave His message verbally—often phrased in parables and stories that his hearers could relate to and remember—but, insofar as we know, never written down. Two of His apostles, Matthew and John, wrote down their recollections, and two other men, Mark and Luke, wrote down what they were able to learn from those who knew Him well. His teachings are further reflected in the epistles, the letters of the Apostles to the various Christian communities of the ancient world. His teachings are also preserved in the Traditions of the Church—reduced to writing only as time went on—the writings of men who knew the apostles, or the early bishops of the Church. All in all, it took until about the year 100 for what we know today as the Bible to be written—and well into the fourth century to identify those books considered inspired.[4]

The only thing that remains is for us to pick up and read God's word. We moderns would be the envy of the ancient peoples, if they had some way of foreseeing our situation, in which Bibles and the writings of the saints are abundantly available for all to read.

The Jews knew that they were very much favored by God. He favored them by revealing His word to them alone. As David says, “He has proclaimed His word . . . His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation.”[5]

We are supremely fortunate to share in this favor. We are the new Israel. And we don't have to climb any mountains, and don't have to journey into the desert, and we don't even have to deal with the crowds at the sea shore—all we have to do is open a book (or punch a few keys on a computer). We should make use of every opportunity to know God's word; and to put it into practice. That is why He revealed it to us.



[2] Gospel: Luke v: 1-11

[3] Galatians iv:4


[5] Psalm cxxxxvii: 8-9

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