Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Living in the Bible Belt, we encounter people all the time who claim to believe in God. Some will just not shut up about it, most intending no offense of course, but there are a select few who wield their faith like a bat. Now people of faith proclaim what they hold most sacred in their speech, their behavior, their moral choices, their traditions. And then there are those who say they don’t believe in God. Sometimes it helps to clarify if they mean exactly that or they just choose to not participate in the practice of any faith tradition or belong to any form of organized religion. On occasion, this claim is a phase, a form of rebellion, something to annoy those whose expectations make little or no room for bumbling uncertainty or genuine searching. But most of us will experience uncertainty, bumbling or otherwise, searching sincerely for answers to the eternal questions. Philosophers and theologians for generations have wrestled with these very same questions. But we still need to figure things out ourselves, if only to hear what they have to say so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. And yet there will always be those who are not content to build on the work of those who came before them. They have to discover fire on their own, and gravity, and what makes the world go round, and what women really want, and who let the dogs out.
Contrary to popular opinion, people of faith are not born that way. You might hear or make the claim to have been Christian or Catholic all your life. And there’s a bit of truth to that. Your family might be on both sides for many generations, and you’ve always gone to the same church, received all your sacraments, never entertained being anything but, may have gone through dry spells and rough patches but essentially have identified as Christian or Catholic for as long as you remember. And yet there’s more to any relationship than what can be claimed, quantified, and documented. And unless you’re learning to trust God more in the face of life’s challenges, unless you’re actively exploring the depths of the gospel message and how Jesus invites you to be more like himself, unless you’re humbly embracing your struggles knowing strength of the spirit comes from God alone, your claim is a little thin. Living faith is by nature constantly transforming and being transformed because God is not done inviting us, challenging us, purifying us until we are created anew in the image of his Son.
Christian life, like all life, comes with its fair share of trial and inconvenience and struggle and challenge. But a genuine life of faith builds on an attentiveness to the will of God, always listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, along with a deep conviction in God’s knowledge and care for our good, and an eager willingness to place ourselves at the service of God’s will, proclaiming good news, extending mercy, and leading others to the very source of nourishment, renewal, and life.
Abraham and Sarah had every strike against them. And God’s promise of land to call home and descendants to inherit it was total madness. I’m inclined to think their friendship went way beyond what we read in scripture. You simply don’t build that kind of trust overnight. And that makes more sense knowing he was about 75 when he left for the land of Canaan. If you just got started, hang tight. You’ve got a ways to go.
For countless generations the exodus of Israel to freedom from slavery in Egypt defined her unique relationship with God. Moses is esteemed as a great prophet of God and a leader of Israel like none other in history. But we may not be as familiar with his trials, as when he had to plead with God on account of Israel’s hardness of heart, and when he had to plead with Israel to stay God’s wrath. That kind of stress could not have been good for his mental health. And yet he is a model of faith, unwavering in trust.
Jesus tells us in the gospel to always “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” If this warning sounds ominous, it’s because we’ve heard too often how the Master comes to punish those servants who have no clue who he truly was and the mission he came to fulfill. Knowing the Master’s heart and being always eager to fulfill his will presumes an intimate, attentive, and trusting connection that takes time to develop through trial and inconvenience and struggle and challenge.
And while Jesus invites us to a close and intimate friendship, we know we can never be on equal footing with him. He is and always will be Master, and we servants. Although we have great regard for people like Abraham and Sarah and Moses and the prophets and apostles and saints who were close to God, and God has reserved for them places of due honor in his heavenly kingdom, God does not stop inviting more into close friendship and partnership in mission. Faith is not just about us believing in God and doing God’s will. Faith is first about God believing in us, trusting us with knowledge of him, calling us to draw close, transforming us to be more like himself.
So when you tell anyone you believe in God, remember it’s not about the things that can be claimed, quantified, or documented. Rather, it’s about learning to trust God more in the face of life’s challenges, and actively exploring the depths of the gospel message and how Jesus invites us to be more like himself, and humbly embracing our struggles knowing strength of the spirit comes from God alone. Living faith is by nature constantly transforming and being transformed because God is not done inviting us, challenging us, purifying us until we are created anew in the image of his Son.
Rolo B Castillo © 2022
4 responses to “God First Believed in Us”
Wonderful statement since you have had such an experience recently. Orban
But know you can look at your own life and see it applies to you as well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. We needed to hear your words. It’s helping! Miss you. M&E
You’re welcome. I know it will take time. Even people here have to adjust to someone new. At least no one gave me a thumbs down. Ha!