August 3, 2011 - Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

About a year after the plagues of Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea, the Israelites thought that God would be unable to take over the land to which he brought them. These people had walked with the water like a wall to their right and to their left, but they thought that the Amalekites looked pretty scary, too tough for God. Did they think that he was only a god of running away and not a god of conquering? Did they think that he was just lucky the first time around?

The Israelites were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, and the scouts found that the land was exactly what they had been promised, but they were too afraid to enter the promised land. I myself, when I think of it, have often failed to conquer a land I have scouted out. Perhaps you also have had this experience. I have several times in my life reconnoitered the Kingdom of Heaven: on a retreat, in a dream, in prayer, I have caught a glimpse of what is possible. The Kingdom is beautiful, and wonderful, and everything we have been promised, more than words can describe, yet I continue to stand in the desert, afraid to conquer, afraid of all the Amorites and Hittites that stand in my way.

God’s solution is perfect. The Israelites will wander in the desert for 40 years, until all those who remember Egypt have died. It was the memory of slavery that prevented them from marching in bravely. The entire people will be renewed when a generation is brought up in the desert. We too, before we can enter into the land we have glimpsed, must be renewed. We were slaves to this world, and that slavery has ruined us. We have been freed, but we can never be a free people until there is a renewal, until the old generation, our old self, has dropped dead in the desert.

The next generation will grow up in the desert with no memory of how “great” we had it in Egypt. The new generation would never return to slavery; they are free from their birth. Unlike the Israelites, this renewal will not take place through physical birth but by spiritual rebirth. We have to be born again so that we can be raised again in the desert. By this renewal of our minds, we will have the faith to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.