Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sed Libera a Malo: Reflections on Trusting God

For the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi, we had the Gospel reading of Jesus calming the storm. This morning the Gospel reading was of raising Lazarus. In both of them, we see the theme of Jesus facing our fears and grief, encouraging us in the face of things beyond our control. To his disciples, the storm at sea was beyond their control. To Mary and Martha, death was an unsurmountable barrier. To the disciples, the attitude was act before it is too late! To Mary and Martha, it was iIf You had been there, You could have done something. But now that he’s dead, it’s too late.


For both of these attitudes, Our Lord has the same kind of response—It’s not too late, I am in control. Believe in me. That’s hard for us to grasp. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a pandemic, or a personal tragedy, it’s hard for us to see beyond the here and now. We’re suffering or grieving now. We think it will never change.


What makes it hard is that sometimes we do suffer. There have been plagues, wars, persecutions and other trials where people have suffered and died. Sometimes the outcome we want is not the outcome God wills for us. But we need to remember Jesus’ words. Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:40) and “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). 


Our problem is that while we do want to have faith, we’re afraid of what God wills for us. That’s not faith however. That’s being afraid that God won’t do what is right for us. But what He wills for us is good, not evil. As we are told in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”


That doesn’t mean a Prosperity Gospel kind of “everything will be fine, so don’t worry.” It means that—given Our Lord intends for us to have eternal life with Him—what He calls us to will go beyond the needs of this physical life and what is good for us will have that consideration in this life. Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof might sing, “Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan, If I were a wealthy man?” But it might spoil our eternal plan. Mark 10:23 tells us, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” We might find that we would handle wealth badly, misusing it and living selfishly, for example. It also doesn’t mean that to be a Christian is to mandate living in a hell on Earth. We’re not obligated to choose the worst options in life. Some might be called to practice the severe austerities of the Desert Fathers. But others cannot live that life. 


What we are called to is to live in a way that says “Not my will, but Your will be done.” In this life, we might be blessed with wealth and comfort. But we will have to give an accounting of what we did with it to serve God. We might be given poverty and suffering. But we will need to give an accounting for how we responded.


Those saints who responded to suffering with heroic virtue probably would have been happy enough to give the suffering a miss. But they also responded to what they experienced out of love for God.


None of us knows what will happen. We could die of old age in comfort. We could die young in poverty… or anywhere in between. I could catch COVID-19 tomorrow, die in a car wreck, or not. But God wills my good for me, regardless of what happens. So when we pray the Our Father, and get to the line “deliver us from evil,” we need to recognize that what is ultimately good for us is what will bring us to Heaven, and what is ultimately bad for us will hinder us from that ultimate good.


So, while none of us want to suffer. Let us pray that whatever comes our way, we may approach it in a way that focuses first of all on Christ and seek to do His will in all things.

No comments:

Post a Comment