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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nadab, Abihu, Uzzah -- and Me?


But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20)


My wife and I attended another church for Mass last weekend.  The Gospel reading was from John 6 where Jesus fed the 5000. I’ve heard an exposition of this passage by many pastors over the years. This time, I heard something new.

When the priest said the apostles “stole the bread and fish from the little boy and gave them to Jesus,” I believe he was simply trying to be ‘cutesy’ to add some humor to his homily. I thought his comment was an engaging – albeit, novel – way to introduce that story. The priest then went on to make the larger point about giving what we have to Jesus that He may multiply it.

But my comments now are not about the priest. 

They’re about me.

It was not until later did I realize what I’d done wrong. And I wonder – even now as I write this – if my relationship with the absolutely Holy, Holy, Holy God is in danger of slipping into a casual one, one that takes His utter and impeccable Holiness for granted.

I think that’s what happened to Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron the High Priest. After they’d eaten with God on the mountain, they offered “strange fire” during their sacrifices and were summarily killed by God. I think they’d become presumptuous about their relationship with the Holy One and had lost their respect and reverential awe of His holiness. (You can find their story in Leviticus 10 and Exodus 24:9-10).

I believe something similar also happened to the priest Uzzah. The Holy Ark of the Covenant had been in his home for 20 years (1 Samuel 7:1-2 and 1 Chronicles 13:1-5). And because ‘familiarity’ often leads to presumption, perhaps Uzzah no longer took holiness of God seriously – and died as a result (1 Chronicles 13:9-10 and 1 Chronicles 15:12-15).

As I thought later about my attitude during the homily I wondered how it can be that I did not take offense at the flippant remark about the apostles stealing the loaves and the fish. Why did my spirit not immediately take umbrage with the implicit idea that the holy apostles would steal, and that the Lord Jesus Himself would be party to it?

Maybe like Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah, I have unconsciously lost my sense of God’s absolute holiness. I know about His holiness in my mind. But I wonder if it has slipped – even a little – from my heart.


2 comments:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Even if the priest was joking, it was very bad form. In these days of thievery from the federal government on down to the engineered looting of whole communities to the thugs manhandling store clerks for Swisher Sweets to neighborhood kids ripping the heads off my iris, stealing is nothing to be made light of. How many people in that congregation went away with the idea that if the apostles stole, there's nothing wrong with me filching something here and there for myself? It was a demeaning comment to Christ and the apostles. Pity that poor congregation if they have to listen to those kinds of flippant comments every week. And pray for that priest.

Rich Maffeo said...

On the good advice of another friend, I sent him the essay. I am interested if he will respond.