September 11, 2016 — Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses. In the midst of revealing to Moses what the Israelites have done and how they have violated His trust in them, the Lord says, “I see how stiff-necked this people is.” As is often the case in Holy Scripture, the term “stiff-necked” has a basis in agriculture, and one with which we may not be familiar.
Farmers at that time used the term “stiff-necked” to describe an ox or horse which did not respond to directions. When an animal like that would not move and resisted direction, the animal tended to stiffen and freeze, thus the term “stiff-necked” for one who is stubborn and uncooperative.
God may consider us to be stiff-necked at times, might He not? In spite of the Lord’s appeals to us to trust Him and to follow Him, we sometimes stiffen and resist. Usually we do that because following the Lord may prove uncomfortable for us. God’s terms for us and His expectations of us may sometimes seem unreasonable and even impossible.
Yet, that is the challenge of living stewardship as a way of life. It is not always easy, and it may put us in positions where we feel uncomfortable and even vulnerable. Moses pleads the case for his people to God and the Lord responds to Moses’ plea, his prayer, and Scripture tells us “So the Lord relented in the punishment.” We do need to trust the Lord, and we do need to pray to Him, as He will respond with love and mercy.