Reflection for Friday, July 9, 1999: 14th week in Ordinary Time.

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Krettek, Thomas, S.J.
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Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death, claims that "the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man."|And yet we hear:|"At last I can die . . ."|"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word . . ."|Father, into your hands I commend my spirit . . . "|Jacob/Israel, Simeon, and Jesus all are free from the fear that haunts the human animal and is the mainspring of human activity. They are free in their responses to the order of necessity that includes death. Their freedom with respect to death differs from that alleged freedom by which one chooses death rather than the necessity of suffering. What differentiates these two kinds of choices is that the former is made in a faith that is the presence of God, while the latter is made in a fear that is the absence of God.|The first reading recounts the event of Israel going down to Egypt, which is the prequel to the pivotal event in Israelite history, namely, the liberation from Egypt. What in one frame of reference is simply Jacob's decision to see his son Joseph before he dies, is in another frame of reference prompted and confirmed by the Divine initiative. Israel is led out from the land of promise. Just as the disciples left all and followed Jesus, so too does Jacob leave all to respond to God's promptings. The going out of the promised land is the going down into slavery. Jacob speaks for all Israel. Now Israel can die. What allows this choice? God's promise of presence. "Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt . . . I shall go down to Egypt with you and I myself shall bring you back again. . ."|That God fulfilled the promise of presence is what allows Simeon to welcome death for he continues "for my eyes have seen your salvation." Simeon, the righteous and devout person on whom the Holy Spirit rested and who hoped for the consolation of Israel, sees in the infant child that God has come down to Egypt with us to personally bring us back to the land of promise. God is present with us as promised.|Oftentimes we can believe that the presence of God rescinds the necessities of this world and relieves us of the fact of suffering and death. However, the Gospel belies the reliability of that belief. Scripture scholars claim that the text reflects the experience of the early church, which means that it reflects the situation of the church after the Resurrection. Even then all is not well. Not only does it reveal the awareness that trials and suffering have not disappeared, but it also reminds us "do not worry about how to speak or what to say . . . the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you." The promise of God's presence is that we are never alone in our suffering and that death is not the final word.|How do I get to where Jacob/Israel, Simeon, and Jesus were from where I am depends on recognizing where God has taken the initiative to be present in my life and whether I am willing to give myself to the guidance of that presence. Doing so requires that I have a true and right idea of God. Do I?|Readings Texts On Line|for Sunday|Retreat Page
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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