C Cycle – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
She sat in my office, tears running down her cheeks, wondering why God had abandoned her. Why was God doing this to her, she was faithful, and she did not deserve to have this tragedy inflicted upon her. She felt alone and abandoned by God, family, friends, and her broken heart needed to know why. Is this how God responds to us when we have been faithful? How do you tell someone what they are experiencing is not because God is chastising them but instead there are other forces at work trying to silence the voice of God?
Jeremiah’s words to the Israelites were upsetting them, causing them to become depressed and demoralized. God was opening his arms to welcome them and all they could see was the hardships and disasters of exile. Jeremiah was preaching a message of hope, restoration but it was also one of helping them recognize how they had abandoned God. They had forgotten the great command to love God with their whole hearts, mind, strength, and soul.
Jeremiah’s message was challenging, probing the hearts of the people causing them to look inward at how they had abandoned God. That message seems to run throughout the history of our relationship with God. We want what God offers us, while at the same time we want that relationship on our terms.
Adam and Eve’s fall should have taught us that lesson, as did the generation of Noah’s time. We want what God offers us, but we want it on our schedule, and we fail to grasp the concept of allowing God to be in charge of our holiness. Yet, if you take the time to read the scriptures you will discover how God has always challenged those who follow him at the very moment, they become comfortable.
Look at Abraham. He was living well and was comfortable when God told Abraham to leave civilization to go and wander in the wilderness. The scriptures do not tell us anything about Abraham’s knowledge of God prior to that moment and yet Abraham obeyed. God is calling each of us today to go to a place he will reveal himself to us and where he will speak to our hearts and reveal his plan for our lives.
A Philistine Giant challenged the entire army of King Saul, and they were terrified, unwilling to fight for their survival. Where was their God? Goliath was unbeatable and the skilled army of Saul watched as a boy stood up announcing God would give him the victory. Those Israelites believed in the same God but on that day only David was willing to trust in God and believe God had not abandoned them.
Jeremiah, dared to speak the truth about why the people were suffering greatly and instead of responding by turning back to God, they wanted him silenced. The religious of Jesus’s day wanted him silenced because his words challenged their comfortable faith in the law to define their holiness. It is easy to follow the law, easy to be faithful and measure our relationship with God by our ability to show up. It is much harder to listen to him during hardships to discern the evil that is attacking deliberately to draw us away from God. We fail to see the connection between the disaster and our failure to build a relationship with God where we discover his heart weeps for us because we are willing to settle for obedience to laws, rules, and rituals.
Our God is a God who touches, embraces, and speaks to the hearts of those crying out to him. Our God is a God who does not look at our sin but at the person created in his image. Our God is a God who responds to every need and often we are unaware of the response. But one day our eyes will be opened, and we will discover God was with us even amid the pain, amid the sin and in the midst our disbelief in God presence.
This week read the psalms written by David and you will discover how our human nature voices those words about God. The same question about God’s caring made that day by that lady who wanted to know where God was when she needed him most. He was, is and always will be with us and yet it is hard to believe he is there when we are in deep pain.
This is why Jesus tells us he wants to set our hearts on fire. He has something he wishes us to receive if only we invite him into our hearts. His desire is to accomplish within us the Fathers plan to change our hearts. Change them in a way that we know, not believe, but know the desires of God to give us all that is good. To be with us during those moments of deep pain and brokenness. To help us heal and become new creations in Christ. We pray you will be done not ours.
It is no wonder families are divided. My family is because some of them believe in God’s promises, and some do not. How do you tell a family member God cares when they watch their spouse die of cancer, or lose their identity to dementia, or struggle with Parkinson’s as it robs them of mobility? Where is God they want to know. He is right beside all of us, holing our hand, speaking to our hearts, and showing us the promise to make all thing new. Only when we open ourselves to encounter Christ will be know the truth of his presence.
How do we help people discover that truth? We do it by our own witness as we struggle with the ups and downs of life. We do it by not wavering in our belief in a God who calls us his delight and his desire if for our welfare not our demise. We do that by getting to know God’s heart by encountering him daily in our own reading of scripture and our prayers where we listen rather than tell God what he should be doing. We do that by looking for the sign’s revealing God is in our land.
He told us seek and we will find. We need to become seekers and believers who are unafraid to reveal the God we worship to anyone and everyone.