Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
“God has visited His people.”
The mixture of fear and glory evoked by Jesus’ miracle in today’s Gospel passage is striking. We might be tempted to think that fear and glory are mutually exclusive: that if one were fearful of some person or thing or situation that one would flee. Certainly we might wonder why someone who is fearful would give glory to God. In fact, the evangelist states: “Fear seized them all”. He makes clear that it was not a slight fear that they experienced, but something much more compelling.
However, it might be that the fear noted by St. Luke the Evangelist is the “fear of the Lord” that we hear of elsewhere in Sacred Scripture (for example, Proverbs 1:7 and Isaiah 11:2). This goes hand in hand with the other quote of the crowd noted by St. Luke: “God has visited His people.” This is another way of speaking about one of the names for Jesus that St. Matthew the Evangelist offers within the narratives about the birth of Jesus: the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means “God is with us” [Matthew 1:23].
In many cultures, and certainly in the Jewish world of the Old Testament, God is thought to be utterly transcendent, abiding in another world. A manifestation of God in this world here below would be as sacred as it were rare.
For the crowd, then, to glimpse that, in some way, shape, or form, God had visited His people through this Jewish man Jesus would certainly evoke the fear of the Lord. That some would then give glory to God attests to their spiritual insight. Of course, we know from the end of Jesus’ life that others had an opposite response to Jesus. Each of us has to reckon with our own responses to God visiting us, His people, in every aspect of our lives, including calling us to forgive others, to have hope when all seems hopeless, and to have faith even the size of a mustard seed.