July 24, 2019

Do We Hear the Voice of the Good Shepherd?

In the Book of Exodus, we read of the Israelites departure from Egypt and of their miraculous deliverance by God through Moses. As part of that story, we read of the time when Moses went up on Mount Sinai and was given the Ten Commandments. He received “Two stone tablets that were written on both sides, front and back, that were engraved by God himself.” (Exodus 32:15-16) Moses had been up on that mountain for “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18) and during that time the Israelites had lost their confidence in God and Moses and had fashioned for themselves a Golden Calf to worship as their God. When Moses came down from the mountain and witnessed the actions of the Israelites, he was so enraged that he “threw the tablets down and broke them”. (Exodus 32:19)

Moses then spoke with God, interceding on behalf of the people, asking God to forgive them their sin. Then the Lord told Moses, “You and the people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt are to go up from here to the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I will give to their descendents. I will send an angel before you to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I Myself will not go up in your company.” (Exodus 33:1-3)

The Exodus events are stories that we have all heard and read many times; but I call your attention to that very last sentence, “I Myself will not go up in your company.” God would no longer grant the people His visible presence as he had done before, but He would not utterly forsake them. He would give them everything they had ever wanted: peace, prosperity, property and an angel; everything, but not Himself or His guidance.

There is an important lesson for us in that story. God was obviously displeased with the behavior of the Israelites, but He still allowed His children to pursue their heart’s desire. For me, that fact really demonstrates the incredible love of our Heavenly Father. He loves us so much that He will not interfere with our free will. He will always step aside and allow us the freedom to create our own path in life, rather than follow His leadership. We are free to choose for ourselves whatever we want in life and in which direction we choose to go in life. That is an important fact for us to remember, not only as individuals, but also as a people, as a culture, and as a society.

We, as a people, have established laws and permitted practices that are contrary to the way of life outlined for us in the words of Sacred Scripture. And I can’t help but wonder if some of the problems and natural disasters that we have been experiencing are, in some way, a consequence of our departure from following the will of God for us as a people. God is allowing us the freedom to reject His leadership and guidance. He is granting us the freedom to pursue everything we ever wanted, just as He did the Israelites. He is allowing us the freedom to pursue our heart’s desire rather than follow Him. I don’t believe that God has forsaken us because He did not forsake the people of Israel either, but obviously we are not following His guidance. And we should find that thought disturbing.

Jesus said, “Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice”. (John 18:37) We, as a people, need to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and allow Him to lead and guide us. What will the future hold for us as a people if we continue to ignore the will of God and continue to follow only our own desires? I pray that we, as a people, will recommit ourselves to the truth, so that we, once again, will be able to hear and follow the voice of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox