September 17, 2017
Last week I said that God initiates the relationship with us, and that he always gives us the best, while we tend to offer him the crumbs of our life – the moments “left over” from all that we want to do. Not only that, but Scripture describes Jesus as the “firstfruits” of those who will be raised from the dead.
In our second reading this weekend, St. Paul claims, “If we live, we live for the Lord.” This is one of the ways he emphasizes in his letter to the Romans that Jesus has a total claim over our lives. Jesus himself makes a claim on us. He says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Then he says, “Look at the birds in the sky, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they?” (Mt. 25-26) When you are overwhelmed with problems, don’t numb your anxiety with alcohol or drugs. Instead, go to Jesus, your Lord, Who has claimed you as His own. Go to him first.
The idea of “firstfruits” is as old as the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis, chapter 4. In the book of Exodus, chapter 13, God speaks to Moses and tells him, “Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.” The idea is extended to the harvest ten chapters later. “The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God.” (Exodus 23:19) If you harvested 10 baskets of grapes, the first basket belonged to God. “All the tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord; they are sacred to the Lord.” (Lev. 27:30)
The first tenth was set aside for God as recognition that everything came from God, Who has dominion over everything and provided what we have. The tithe acknowledged that God first gives to us and we give our first, our best, back to Him. It also was a way of showing that we trust God to continue to provide for us. The tithes were given to the Levites, the sons of Jacob’s son, Levi, who were set aside specifically for performing all the duties associated with the worship of God. The Sunday collection is a continuation of the tithe. It is an opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude for what God has provided us and our family, and to show our trust that He will continue to provide for us.
(To be continued!)