for Sunday, October 8, 2017
Saint Paul tells us today in the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians: "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God." The other two readings, the first one from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel from Saint Matthew, speak of God's love for us that is so intense that it is expressed in images of destruction for those who will not listen to His love and respond to it.
Surely we must be mature enough to understand that Scripture uses images. There is no way that our loving God is going to try to destroy us or even try to harm us in any way. The images that are used in Scripture sometimes leave us with a sense that God is just waiting to judge us and throw us in Hell. But that is because we misunderstand the words and images of Scripture. We take them as an accurate image of God. Instead, the words of Scripture are the words of men, reflecting in some Divine Way, the reality of God.
We have to know that images that depict God as angry reflect the way that we feel at times when nothing goes the way we want it to go, even when we are trying to be good. We also have to recognize that bad actions on our own part will bring bad results in our lives - not because of God wanting to do something bad to us but because our life will reflect the way that we live. If we live dishonestly, it will destroy us eventually. If we live just according to the lusts of the flesh, that also will eventually destroy any deep relationships what we might have. If we live only seeking power, we will at some point lose power and realize that what we sought was worth nothing.
It is our own actions that actually end up condemning us and making our lives to be a mess - not God. So many of the great theologians and saints have said in their writings that God condemns no one. Rather we condemn ourselves by the choices that we make.
The images today in the first reading and the Gospel are about what we humans do with our lives, both personally and as a people or as a community. We mess things up and we reject God and His ways. The image used to show that God sees what is happening is that of God's anger - but we must remember that it is God who is upset with us for choosing against Him. God always loves us unconditionally and even accepts our rejection of Him. God cannot change us unless we choose to let God change us. Sometimes when our lives are a mess, all we can do is ask God: "Help me." That is enough. But when we blame the mess on God and reject God, then God cannot help us unless we have some openness to Him.
So the message of the readings today is very clear: choose God and pray to God with a complete confidence. If we reject God, he cannot go against our own free will which He gave us. God's choice is always love! Our choice is up to us.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 5.1-7
Second Reading: Philippians 4.6-9
Gospel: Matthew 21.33-43
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: