The first reading contains a lot of interesting material. The first thing I notice is that Gideon is rather bold and calls God out for seemingly deserting them. He says “the Lord has cast us off”. But the Angel responds “Do not I send you?”. This brings up a really great point. How often do we sit around waiting for God to impress us. We passively expect to be wowed by God’s miracles. But sometimes God is calling us to BE the miraculous sign! The Angel calls Gideon, with his weak clan, to rise up and defeat their opponents. God will come to their aid and their success will show the people - and Gideon himself - a miracle. But this requires Gideon’s participation. When we answer God’s call, we are giving Him the opportunity to work a miracle through us. When we say, “forget it, God doesn’t care about me anyway”, then we are denying Him that chance to show what all He can do with our lives.
Gideon also asks a question we all do…if God is so present and so mighty, why has he let these bad things happen to us? Of course this is a question for which we will never have the full answer on Earth. But maybe in this case, God let them be defeated because they were beginning to take God for granted and now if Gideon and his weak clan are able to defeat the Mid'ianites, then they may be re-inspired. Or maybe it’s that whole, “bad things happen when good people do nothing” thing. Maybe the same Angel had approached others who did not believe and declined God’s calling and so his people remained oppressed. Participation in God’s plan is essential.
Making the impossible possible is something that appears also in the Gospel. Without God, it isn’t possible for anyone to beat their enemies, or to get to Heaven. This makes me think again about how the God of the Old Testament was there to help them conquer earthly foes. But Jesus came to help them conquer spiritual foes. It’s a natural progression, but also a difficult adjustment for the people of Israel. For the first time, they are asked to sacrifice in this life for reward in the next. In the Old Testament, the reward for trusting and following God was gaining land or power or freedom from oppression - all benefits in this life. But Jesus tells them that the first shall be last - a lesson that is hard to accept. Perhaps God was building his credibility throughout the ages. “See?” he says, “I helped you in this life, so you should trust what I say about the afterlife”. When Jesus says his father is the God of Abraham and Isaac, that is what He is calling to mind. He is invoking past miracles to make a point about his loyalty and power. But of course, they forget quickly just as Gideon did, and just as we do every day.
Dear Jesus, help us hear the call to participate in Your plans. Give us the grace to allow You to demonstrate Your presence through us, and inspire us to trust that nothing is impossible with God.