From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

In the first chapter of the book, Seriously God? We saw how God answers our prayers in various ways. Consider the stoplight: Red (for no), Yellow (for grow), and Green (for go). Often God seems to place challenges on our road as growth moments, so that we mature in our faith. St. Paul describes this process as moving from milk to meat, maturing in our faith from the food of infants to the sustenance of adults (1 Cor 3:2). But growth can be grueling, uncomfortable, and even distressing in the spiritual life.

The Bible is full of these growth stories. When God raises up faithful followers discomfort is inevitable. Each account offers its own lessons. This week, our readings present one key moment in the story of Abraham, our father in faith, part of the longer story of him learning to trust that God’s promises will ultimately be fulfilled. It takes 25 years, a quarter century, from the moment God first promises Abram descendants to the arrival of Isaac. What a long road! Two quick notes for those who seek to understand more fully God’s timing in this case. First, when Abram leaves Ur at age 75 he does not leave all his kindred behind as God instructs. Instead, he departs with his nephew Lot, a subtle sign that he is hedging his bets by bringing a younger male relative along. Second, later on his wife Sarai encourages him to make an heir with Hagar, her slave. In both instances, we can appreciate how these decisions show a less than perfect trust that God will fulfill his promise. Hence, part of the reason that Abraham is 100 years old with an infant in diapers. Not exactly my idea of being one of God’s chosen ones!

The corresponding chapter in our book highlights two other growth experiences: the storm at sea (Mk 4:35-41) and the storms in Jonah’s life. In each particular case, God surprises and delights but also confuses and confounds. While the storm at sea is sudden and intense, the life of Jonah is its own saga. He is the reluctant prophet who gets angry when the people of Nineveh listen to his exhortations and repent. Jonah is dissatisfied with his success and seems to prefer that God smite Nineveh. Talk about an ornery bloke!

All of these readings and many others are worthy of our prayer and study. We sift through these accounts in order to lean in and seek to learn how God reveals himself. We ask the question: God, what are you doing? What are you teaching? How are you leading? Like us, our spiritual ancestors can feel like God has let them down, or left them out in the wind, or not held up his end of the bargain. Lots of cliches here, purposefully strung together, to emphasize that often God does not work according to our cliches, our familiar notions; yet God is at work leading, guiding, shaping and calling onward.

The Psalms are some of the richest sources in the Scriptures. They can really help us to name and put word to our emotions with respect to God and the unfolding of his plan. Two psalms (Ps 25 and Ps 86) come to mind for times of distress when we are waiting on the Lord. They show an openness characteristic of those guided by the Holy Spirit, a humility of the creature before the Creator. Both are beautiful prayers for those who struggle and think that God may have let them down.

This week I pray God gives you the courage to lean in!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Wilson