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When God Doesn’t Make Sense

My dear brothers and sisters,

On this First Sunday of Lent, we begin a new message series: “When God Does Not Make Sense.” We have all lived through at least one experience when what was happening did not seem in accord with what we understood to be God’s will or ways. We have all struggled to understand the mind of God… and perhaps even cried, “Oh God what were you thinking?” Sometimes, when we say that we mean, “What was I thinking?!” but we will leave that case aside for now.

God's ways are not our ways, as He teaches in the Scriptures: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Yet this is hardly the only occasion in the Bible where people ponder quizzically the mind of God. Paul lays out the idea starkly, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” (Romans 11: 33-35)

The amazing thing about God is that he sees all at once: past, present and future. Some theologians even consider that God knows simultaneously not only what was, is and will be, but all the possibilities, all the permutations of reality, all of what did not happen, could be happening, and may unfold - all in once glance. 

Another mind-boggling thing to consider is that the universe is not God’s full time job. All of created reality does not occupy his mind fully. Rather Father, Son and Spirit are intent most acutely on loving and knowing each other, on the eternal dance of love called circumincession. Although our attention is most often fixed upon ourselves, his attention is not used up in the gaze of his love.

The Psalmist perceives this majesty, and admits, “Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach.” (Psalm 139:5-6) There is a point in our lives, when our probing intellect falls short, and we need to rely on faith. Yet faith is neither blind nor irrational. Faith and reason are not opposed. See John Paull II’s great encyclical on the matter, Fides et Ratio. Rather faith and reason inform and strengthen each other mutually. But the human project of seeking to grasp the mind of God is fraught with difficulty.

What we can do much more successfully, is get to know his heart. Ultimately through the Cross, God shows us what true love looks like: cruciform. Stretched wide across the horizon to encompass all men, and piercing the heavens from the earth to be a perfect filial oblation, stands the cross of Christ. But we can also witness his love in every interaction of the Gospels.

Today Jesus endures temptation and suffering in the desert to show us that we need not take the shortcut, that the true path to goodness is hard and fraught with terrors, even demons. By his example, Jesus shows us that patient endurance under trial wins the day, not seeking the easy way out. In so doing, we grow our character and so become better servants of our Father in heaven.

May this Lent be a time of strength and renewal for our parish family!

Fr. Joel Wilson