Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
First Reading: Jer 17:5-8
Second Reading: 1 Cor 15:12,16-20
Gospel Reading: Lk 6:17,20-26
The prophet Jeremiah had little reason to trust humans. The people hated him because he told them to repent. He was arrested, imprisoned, and disgraced. He saw Jerusalem destroyed and was exiled to Egypt. There, tradition says, he was murdered by his own countrymen.
However, it seems he had little reason to trust God, either. “The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day,” he said.
Nevertheless, he did trust God. “Cursed are they who trust in mere mortals,” he said, but “blessed are those who trust in the Lord.”
A lady whose husband was dying said to me, “He’ll live, Father. I trust God.”
But her husband died. Had God betrayed her trust?
No. Like Jeremiah, we must trust not that God will do what we want, but that whatever he does is best.
Imagine a dog whose paw is caught between two boards in a fence. He pulls and pulls, but the paw only becomes more tightly stuck. Then a man comes along. He sees that in order to release the paw, he has to push it back between the boards, so that he can turn it sideways before he pulls it out.
Imagine what the dog makes of this. The man seems to be doing the opposite of what he wants. Nevertheless, it is only by trusting the man that he can be released.
We often have to trust God in the same way. He does not offer us proof; he asks for our confidence.
So do humans. A demand for proof would often kill an interpersonal relationship. Imagine a spouse who has you watched to make sure you are faithful, or a friend who abandons you when you are accused of a crime until you have been proven innocent.
Of course, the man may not be trying to release the dog. The spouse may actually be unfaithful. But God is utterly trustworthy.
As St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”; “he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” In other words, God fulfilled in the New Testament what he had promised in the Old. We can trust his promises.
Christ trusted his Father, even when he said from the cross, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
However, St. Paul says, “if for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Like the dog with its foot caught, we have to trust God through all the seeming contradictions of the Gospel Reading: though we are poor, we possess the Kingdom of Heaven; though we are hungry, we will be filled; though we weep, we will laugh; when people hate us, we should rejoice and “leap for joy.”
I remember saying all this to a man whose wife had left him and would hardly talk to him. There appeared to be absolutely no chance of normal, happy married life for him with her, and yet in the eyes of God she was still his wife.
“Does God really want me to go through life without a wife?” he asked me. “Can he really want something so opposed to my happiness, my personal fulfillment?”
My heart bled for him. It seemed so unfair. But, out of kindness to him, like the man with the dog, I had to answer, “Trust God. Trust that he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. Trust that he wants you to be happy.
“But remember that he made you. He designed you. He knows better than you what will make you happy forever.”
Think of the poem Footprints in the Sand.” In hindsight, we will see that when there was only one set of footprints, it was not because we were alone, but because Christ was carrying us.
Father Hawkswell teaches Catholic Faith - in Plain English, a free course on the Catholic faith from now until Pentecost: every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre, 4885 Saint John Paul II Way (just off 33rd Avenue between Oak and Cambie) and twice every Monday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Parish, 2347 Inglewood Avenue, West Vancouver, and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre. Everyone is welcome, Catholic or non-Catholic. For more info and the list of topics and dates, visit rcav.org/adult-catechesis-course.