Moses spoke to the people saying: Ask of the days of old, that have been before thy time from the day that God created man upon the earth, from one end of heaven to the other end thereof if ever there was done the like thing, or it hath been known at any time, that a people should hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire, as thou hast heard, and lived: If God ever did so as to go, and take to himself a nation out of the midst of nations by temptations, signs, and wonders, by fight, and a strong hand, and stretched out arm, and horrible visions according to all the things that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, before thy eyes. That thou mightest know that the Lord he is God, and there is no other besides him. From heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might teach thee.
And upon earth he shewed thee his exceeding great fire, and thou didst hear his words out of the midst of the fire, Because he loved thy fathers, and chose their seed after them. And he brought thee out of Egypt, going before thee with his great power, To destroy at thy coming very great nations, and stronger than thou art, and to bring thee in, and give thee their land for a possession, as thou seest at this present day. Know therefore this day, and think in thy heart that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath, and there is no other. Keep his precepts and commandments, which I command thee: that it may be well with thee, and thy children after thee, and thou mayst remain a long time upon the land, which the Lord thy God will give thee.
Neither the people of Israel then nor humanity today makes it easy for God in His desire to manifest Himself to us. In our blindness, we find it difficult to recognise God’s works and to be aware of them. It would seem that we do not realise what He does, that we are not truly acknowledged and remember it, so that all that the Lord has done and continues to do for us every day becomes a solid spiritual certainty, on which we can gratefully build.
In today’s reading, the Lord seeks to show His people all His works, to bring them to remembrance, and thus to awaken them to give Him the response that is due, namely, to keep His commandments.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me”, the Son of God will tell us later (Jn 14:21). The keeping of these commandments is the prerequisite for God’s love to reach us. Only when we strive to keep them, God can enter our hearts and the relationship of love with Him can unfold. As long as we live away from the divine commandments, He will knock at our door to choose life. For to keep the commandments is life; not to keep them means death.
What can we do to become more aware of all that God does for us, so that it becomes natural for us to perceive His loving guidance day by day? The New Testament also presents us with the problem of not being aware of what the Lord is doing. Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of His disciples who, although they lived with Him, seeing and hearing everything he did and said, did not draw the right conclusions from it.
One way to increasingly recognise God’s works is to practice gratitude, really thanking the Lord for all that we receive from Him. This attitude is more important than we might think. Let us remember the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, only one of whom returned to give glory to God (cf. Lk 17:11-19).
It is easy for us to ask God; however, it is in thanksgiving for what we have received that we become aware of the reality, that is, of God’s loving response to our request. The more we give thanks, the more our eyes are opened to see God’s benefits in our lives; the more we learn to know His goodness; the more we discover how wisely He guides our lives.
Another great help is to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that Jesus said and did. This is precisely what the Lord told us about the work of the Comforter: “The Paraclete (…) will teach you everything and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you” (cf. Jn 14:26).
The Holy Spirit is the living memory in us, reminding us of God’s constant action for our salvation, in the past, in the present and in the future. We can therefore turn to Him, asking Him to bring God’s marvellous works always to our remembrance, to praise Him for all that He does. In this way, we will not only thank God for each particular thing, but our whole life will become a thanksgiving to Him, in praise of His goodness.
In order to overcome our obstinacy and indifference once and for all, and to unite ourselves with our whole life to the Virgin Mary’s song of praise, it is necessary for us to be conscientious in our spiritual journey. Only by co-operating with God’s grace and working on our own heart can we be freed from our attachment to ourselves, which, after all, is one of the essential causes of our blindness, which does not allow us to recognise God’s works.
As long as our hearts remain primarily occupied with fulfilling our own desires and expectations; as long as we live in the illusion that we can achieve our own happiness on our own; as long as our aspirations are not fully focused on God, we will find it difficult to recognise His works.
So it must have been with the Israelites. Their earthly needs and concerns took such a high priority that God’s works were pushed into the background or even forgotten, to the point of rebellion against Him.
The living and grateful remembrance of the works of the Lord, bearing in mind that His intentions are always good, will not only help us to grow in our love for God, but will also make us more sensitive to recognise the good that we receive from other people. And so our love for our neighbour will also grow!