The angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon answered him, "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you." He responded, "But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them." Then he said to him, "If now I have found favour with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you." And he said, "I will stay until you return."
So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, "Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face." But the Lord said to him, "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die." Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace.
I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people and his friends
and those who turn to him in their hearts. (R./)
Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven. (R./)
The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
Peter said in reply, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
The last phrase in today's Gospel is one of those puzzling paradoxes beloved of Jesus. In what possible way will the first be last, and the last first? Surely it is not an invitation to complete fatalism or passivity? The true believer is expected to be a seeker and a doer, and to only expect miracles when all else fails. He or she is also capable of giving up everything in life, for the sake of the kingdom.
Although Gideon was a judge over Israel, his faith was wavering. Maybe the God who had done marvellous deeds in the past would act again; but maybe not. Could Gideo possibly be the man to lead the fight against the Midianites? A wavering faith can be a shield against disappointment. If one does not really turst one's spouse or in one's church or government, one will not be surprised by betrayal or infidelity. Weak faith is a sort of fatalism; strong faith works on hoping for the best. Gideon learns that God is about to renew such marvellous deeds as in the days of his ancestors.
Against such a this background Jesus' enigmatic statements about wealth, about who is first and who is last, about overcoming obstacles make more sense. To a person of faith, with the memoriy of stories like that of Gideon, with experiences of prayer and fidelity, We are summoned to the active response of faith. In God's good time, the last will indeed be first.
Some Gospel sayings have a special inspirational power. One is that "for God everything is possible." Something similar is said in answer to Mary's question, "How can this be?" The angel Gabriel answered, "Nothing is impossible with God." The context in today's gospel is when the rich young man who was ooking for the path to eternal life went away sad because Jesus set the bar too high. How can a rich person find the way to eternal life? It is possible, sys Jesus, but only with a special grace of God.
In our own way we sometimes seem to face impossible odds. We wonder how we will get through some family loss or sickness or break-up, how to keep going. In such circumstances, it's good to know that, "for God everything is possible." Saint Paul knew all bbout that, and he expressed it in his inimitable way. To his friends in Philippi he wrote, "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." How good it would be to share in that deep conviction!