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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Circumcision of The Heart

In today's Divine Office, one of the readings shows the renewal of the covenant God made with Abraham. Now, remember, the People of God had to endure slavery for years, and had to "get Egypt out of them" by wandering in the desert until they were pure of heart.

Those who grew up in slavery, except for Caleb and Joshua, did not enter the Promised Land.

To go from slavery of sin to purity of heart takes a long time, and a will to persevere. Most of the Hebrews on the way through Sinai kept falling back into sin, and the greatest sin, not trusting in Divine Providence. Even Moses sinned this sin by striking the rock three times instead of one.

When Moses renewed the covenant with the Hebrews in Sinai, he asked them to dedicate the first-born of their animals, as well as the first-born son, to God. The sign of this covenant was, and still is for the Jews, circumcision.

Circumcision supplanted first-child killing in the sacrifices to Moloch, to which I have referred on this blog before. Circumcision, the sign of the covenant, took the place of the common pagan custom of throwing one's first-born son into the fires of the demons of Canaan.

The pain of circumcision leaves after a relatively short time. But, the sign remains for the entire life of the male. God, through Moses, demanded a little suffering in dedication, and the people understood the difference. They were not to do human sacrifice.

Purity of heart begins with obedience and the will to follow God through the desert. This is from Lauds.

Isaiah 1:16-18

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.
18 Come now, let us argue it out,
    says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

May our Lenten walk be both a cry for purity and the willingness to go into the dry land searching for God alone. Here is today's Gospel.

Matthew 5:43-48

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Some people do not want to embrace suffering. They do not want to face any suffering, either their own or another's. It is too hard to step out of one's comfort zone and be involved with other people. But, the People of God crossing Sinai were not alone, and carried each other along the way, from slavery to freedom.

To accept suffering is to allow one's self to enter into the Sinai experience.of another person.  This experience does not bring poetry into one's life, but hard work. Cooperating with grace may be more difficult for some of us than others.

I belong, as my readers know, to the Society of the Most Sorrowful Mother, a third-order dedicated to praying for those who are in the worst type of slavery-demonic oppression, obsession and possession.

For those in these straits, life may seem like a desert experience, with rocks, heat, sand, long endless journeys which seem to lead to nowhere. They suffer daily and need prayers daily. One must be willing to enter into the desert with them and pray. This is what Our Lady did at the foot of the Cross. She entered into the suffering of her Son, and into our suffering. But, we all have freedom because of the suffering of Christ and Mary, our Co-Redemptorix. She took on herself suffering for the sake of her people, the Jews, and for the sake of all of us. Her walk to Calvary mirrors the walk to the Promised Land.

Remember it took the Israelites forty years to get to Mount Sinai, which normally would have taken forty days max for that many people to get to Sinai, and another 116 days to get to Gaza or so. One can see how the Wandering for forty years was God's Will and not the terrain. The total walking time could have been as short, without God's intervention of punishment and purification, of 156 days or so. Given the lack of modern roads, one could add another 20 days or so, and state that within 176 days of leaving Egypt, going to Sinai, and then to Gaza, the People of God could have been in the Promised Land in half a year. This suffering of these people was a really, long time. All died except for the chosen few who were pure of heart. God punished their sins with death, and with not being allowed to go into the new land prepared for them. Such is purgatory for us unless we circumcise our hearts.

From Joshua, Chapter One:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, ‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 ‘Pass through the camp, and command the people: “Prepare your provisions; for in three days you are to cross over the Jordan, to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.”’

12 To the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said,13 ‘Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, “The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest, and will give you this land.” 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan. But all the warriors among you shall cross over armed before your kindred and shall help them, 15 until theLord gives rest to your kindred as well as to you, and they too take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land and take possession of it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan to the east.’
16 They answered Joshua: ‘All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your orders and disobeys your words, whatever you command, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.’
Sin keeps us from moving quickly to the goal of holiness. Without God's grace, we would be stuck in Sinai. But, a purgatorial life on earth must be sought for perfection, and it is better to go through purgatory now rather than later, as one helps the Church more directly when one is purified. Joshua was given a particular grace for purity of heart. He allowed his heart to be circumcised.

Deuteronomy 30:6

Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.