“May you have a happy and prosperous new year!” This warm and well- intentioned greeting in the week before and after New Year’s Day, is one we offer each other each year. It is a good thing to wish someone prosperity. God wishes His people prosperity.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, we find the Jewish people getting ready to enter into the “Promised Land.” However, it comes with conditions.
Be careful to observe all the commandments I enjoin on you today, that you may live and increase, and may enter in and possess the land which the Lord promised on oath to your fathers.
Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord. The clothing did not fall from you in tatters, nor did your feet swell these forty years. So you must realize that the Lord, your God, disciplines you even as a man disciplines his son.
Therefore, keep the commandments of the Lord, your God, by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord, your God, is bringing you into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and of honey, a land where you can eat bread without stint and where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones contain iron and in whose hills you can mine copper. But when you have eaten your fill, you must bless the Lord, your God, for the good country he has given you. Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by neglecting his commandments and decrees and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and have increased your herds and flocks, your silver and gold, and all your property, you then become haughty of heart and unmindful of the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers, that he might afflict you and test you, but also make you prosperous in the end.
Otherwise, you might say to yourselves, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth.’ Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers. But if you forget the Lord, your God, and follow other gods, serving and worshiping them, I forewarn you this day that you will perish utterly. Like the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so shall you too perish for not heeding the voice of the Lord, your God (Deuteronomy, Chapter 8).
The Jews had been in the desert for forty years. They had many ups and downs, the downs basically of their own making. They grumbled and complained instead of simply trusting God. Now they are warned once again not to give up trusting God and revisiting their pride and self-sufficiency.
There is within this chapter a stern warning that is important as we go into the year 2012 and especially with this being an election year. Those of us who call ourselves Catholic trace our origin back to Abraham (our Father in faith), through Jesus to our Holy Catholic Church that He started. In fact, it is interesting to study the Mass and see how much of our worship liturgy is based upon Jewish tradition and Old Testament teachings. That is why, every day in Mass, we have a reading from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
The warning is this: Do not forget the source of your being. “…Otherwise, you might say to yourselves, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth.’ Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers. But if you forget the Lord, your God, and follow other gods, serving and worshiping them, I forewarn you this day that you will perish utterly.”
The United States needs to repent. However, the United States is a composite: Jews, Christians, Muslims, and everything in between and outside. What does that mean for us. It means it is the Christians who must take the lead — especially we Catholics — in calling our country to repentence and to remembering God. In upcoming elections we will be given the choice to trust God or the state for our prosperity. The choices are clear.
God is the provider of all: our spiritual needs, our material needs, and our emotional needs. Read and ponder this passage in Deuteronomy. The choice is ours. The consequences of our choices are God’s response to our choices.