Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Following Jesus ... When It Doesn't Make Sense
As the chalice was elevated in offering to The Father, my mind wandered. I wondered what Jesus, the man like me, thought as He offered His body and blood, His life, to The Father. Did He wonder, I wonder, “Why am I doing this? This is Your will, but … this doesn’t make sense!” Did Jesus, the man, willing to die for our sins as The Father willed, think: “But these are sinners --- and they will CONTINUE to be sinners. Despite this huge sacrifice I, and You, make for them, all history says, and all that You can see of the future confirms this one thing: They will not change! So why do this for them? It doesn’t make sense!”
I wonder if He thought those thoughts … and yet He did it anyway; He died for us.
Our recent wise and holy popes have re-emphasized something unique about the Catholic faith compared to some other faiths; our religion is one based on faith and reason. There are some faiths that deem God’s ways cannot be reasoned: If He says kill infidels, then, you must kill them. If He says black is white, then it is. And there are other faiths which say we cannot even know what God says or wishes; He is a god beyond understanding, who created us for some unknown reason and we just muddle on. But the Catholic Church says we can know God, and we can discern through natural law some of His will, and His revelation makes clear many other things not easily discerned. And through the life of Jesus, natural law and revelation come together to show us how God would have us live. And it is not unreasonable; it makes sense.
But what if, at least at this moment, only God can make sense of it? What if he sees the whole picture of our life or creation, and knows that our pains and sorrows, our difficult tasks that we are now facing, that they are all necessary and good things? What if he knows those things, but we don’t? What if His will seems not to make sense, to us?
I wondered for a few moments, if Jesus had those thought about His dying. Certainly giving your life up willingly is a big thing, and you wouldn’t want to do it if it made no sense, or if it were against God’s will, and so likewise we try to reason the goodness of some of the difficult decisions or situations of our life. This is especially true, I think, when we are called to love our neighbor, but he seems totally unworthy of our love.
The abusive mom or dad, the drunken neighbor who vomits on our lawn, the boss who loses his temper and rages red-faced at us, or the woman who says to us: “This is my choice; butt out!” Surely we are not meant to love those people, and by our love imply that they are worth our focus, our prayers --- or Your death? Loving those people doesn’t make sense, Lord.
And it is hard. We feel as such fools if we love them, for they only hate us back.
Like Jesus may have considered: “If I die for their sins, they’ll continue to sin anyway,” so we consider: “If I love them, they will never love me back.” So why do it? It does not seem that it will make any difference and will be a waste of my time, or Your life. So, … why?
I don’t think The Father gave Jesus, the man, an answer, if He had those questions. If anything He probably had a question of His own: “Do You love Me?” That question was in itself an answer. We could look at God’s will and think: “Well, He’s God and He can dictate I do horrible things, so I’ll just have to do them, even if they don’t make sense,” or we can consider why we’ll never understand some things of His will and yet we must do them. Sometimes love, even human love, is beyond understanding.
But God, knowing our weaknesses and incessant search for reasons, did give us a hint as to why we should love our neighbor, even if it doesn’t make sense. His commandment had a seemingly useless phrase at the end. It wasn’t just: “Love your neighbor,” period --- because I said so!!” But the commandment was: “Love your neighbor, as yourself.” The commandment isn’t that we love ourselves first, but rather that God knows how He created us, to love, like Him. So even in our failings, not only did He forgive our sins, He gave us the natural desire to forgive ourselves, because in our nature, even when we know we are weak and fail, we know we want to try, to try to be good. So, knowing our intent to be good, we can forgive ourselves, even when to those around us it doesn’t make sense. We can tell ourselves, “I didn’t really mean to do it.” Even St. Paul asked aloud: “Why do I do the things I do not want to do?”
We all sin, and need forgiveness. And so do our neighbors. And we are commanded, through love, to forgive them.
Even if we don’t understand why they do the evil they do. Even if we know they will likely do the evil again, ever over and over again. We are commanded to hate the evil acts they do, but not them. We are commanded to love them, and forgive them, again and again, like a Father --- or His Son. Even if it doesn’t make sense.
Even if it is difficult and hurts to do so. Even as it hurt Jesus. Even if it doesn’t make sense … right now. For someday all the evils we encounter, and all the seemingly senseless good we must do now WILL make sense, when we are united with Him and our will is totally His will --- and we will know it.
In the meantime, Do Not Be Anxious.