Friday, October 31, 2014
In God We Trust, Always
Perhaps because of the time my class takes, and its requirement for daily reading and reflection on Scripture, it seems the guidance the Holy Spirit sends my way of late is through those readings.
I’ll take His presence any way He offers.
Gen 12: 1-9
In this passage of Genesis, Abraham is a rich old man, living the good life in his declining years, when God calls him to pack up his households and flocks and move to a new land where: “I will bless you and make your name great.”
I received great insights last week when I reflected on the passage where Abraham trusted God, even being willing to sacrifice his son, but as I read today’s passage my initial reaction was: Why? Putting myself in Abraham’s shoes, I found myself questioning God’s call: Go to a strange land with all my things so that I can get more things, and be called “great.” But what if, meek and humble as I am, I’ve got enough? “Thank you, Lord, for your great blessings. I don’t need anymore.”
But Abraham went. He trusted God, in good times and in bad. I like to believe that I trust in God in bad times, and trust that He will make sense of evils which befall me, but in good times? Maybe it’s like the words I read in Divine Intimacy yesterday: “Many secondary intentions steal into our actions because we are so wrapt up in ourselves.” Maybe when things are going well I have a perception that it is I who made the good things happen, and so I don’t want to change things --- even if it seems God is calling. Maybe in facing change I see risk --- certainly in Abraham’s shoes I might have: “Risk all I have, God, for a more I neither need nor want? You want me to give all this up?”
But then I read another passage in the Divine Intimacy meditations: “The apostle is sent to ‘give’ and not to ‘receive,’ to sow and not to reap … he ought to know how to give his time, his work, his energies, and even his very self, even in situations which offer nothing consoling, and even to those souls from who he receives neither satisfaction nor gratitude.” Ah, this is what Abraham possessed that I lacked: trust, a trust that God has a reason for when He leads us, and what He asks us to do. If you totally trust the one leading you, there is no risk. Even if you should lose all you have, He will gift you with even more, and even better, and despite the fact you might find it hard to believe: even more joy.
I have a good job, a comfortable retirement, or a loving family: safety. Why change? Why take risks? Man’s words are: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
If I think things are well, will God make them better? Recall that the promise of eternal life was worth dying for; we don’t know how good things can become. Trust. But, I might object, Abraham was promised by God! But, I recall, so was I.
“In God we trust;” words more important than the paper they are written on, more important than our good job, safe retirement, or security of a loving family, because all these will pass away --- to something better, to more love, to eternal safety and security. Why take risks? For the reward, the promised one. Why take risks? For more money? For more power; a cuter spouse or better sex? Abraham knew why --- because God said so.
If we are moved to take risks, we must look at the likely rewards: Is this what God wants? Trust implies risks, calculated risks. How trustworthy is the one asking us to take the risks?
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Running a caregiver’s support groups and having lost my mom last year, I could not be moved by these words of Fr. George Montague, from his book: Living in the Father’s Embrace. He is talking here about the most precious possession of his life, and the time when God called him to give it up, for something better:
“Nine years after Mama’s death, I can say I never consciously gave Mama back to the Lord. I’m still living in the pain of her being taken. If I want to give the Lord something, surely she is the best gift I could give, other than my own life. In a sense, though, what is my own life if not in great part at least what has been give to me through the love of others, especially Mama’s? So perhaps the first step in giving my life back to the Lord is to freely and consciously give him Mama.
Yet what does the Lord get out of this gift? Why should he find it preferable that he have her in a way that he didn’t have her when I had her too? The only thing that makes sense is that she might be with him in a way that she was not while with me. And that is a matter of faith, of course. But it must also be true that my giving her to him is also important to him, perhaps as important as her being with him.
And so, Lord, for her sake, for yours and for mine, I ask for the grace to say with all my heart: ‘Father, thank you for Mama. Thank you for giving her to me. Thank you for taking her to yourself. I forgive you for taking her before I had really given her to you. But I acknowledge that you are God, and it’s not my role to tell you what to do. You are the God of the taking as well as the God of the giving. But now in the awesome freedom you have given me, the freedom you treasure so much, the freedom that dignifies me with your divine likeness, the freedom that can give birth to a gift that would delight you, I surrender: I give Mama to you. She was the best I had, and only you are worthy to receive this, my gift to you. I rejoice that you now have her. I have not lost her after all. I have given her to you.
To give the ones we love back to God is, in the final analysis, to love them as they truly are. For they, like us, are from God and for God. This appears so clearly as death approaches. There is nothing so cruel for the beloved one who is dying to feel as if he is betraying the survivors by leaving them. Thus, the last act of love that we can do for the dying is to give them permission to leave. In doing so, we are simply accepting and affirming who they are, who we are, and who God is. It is to love them as they truly are.”
Lord Jesus, you wept at the tomb of Lazarus. You know what loss is and what grieving is. You used your power to bring your friend back to life. But in our lives, we do not have that power, nor is it part of your ordinary wisdom to give it to us. But you use the rhythm of love in our lives, the rhythm of holding and letting go, to draw us closer to you. When someone or something I love is taken from me, at first I feel loss, even the sense of being robbed. But Lord, grant me the grace to not simply accept the loss but to thankfully give it to you. It was yours in the first place, but you allow me the honor of freely giving it back as my gift to you. Amen.