Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Providence and Love of God

"For thus says the LORD: Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise. There is none to plead your cause, no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; why cry out over your wound? Your pain is without relief. Because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, I have done this to you" (Jer 30).

This is the love of God. He is telling them: “Your wound is incurable, your bruise grievous. There is no one to plead your cause; there is no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. Your gods have forgotten you; they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; they did not come to your aid. Because of your great and numerous sins, I have done this to you. You see, I am seeking you. I have done this to get you to repent. Repent, and I will restore you. I do not seek to destroy you, but to heal you.” It remains true today. Through the hardships, the trials and difficulties, God is working providentially to get us to repent and to sanctify us. They are for our good. “Divine providence works … through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to cooperate freely with his plans. The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (Par 323-324, CCC). We see this ultimately in our Lord’s passion and death. Through the evil done to our Lord, mankind was redeemed. Paragraph 2554 of our Catechism tells us, “The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God.” Just as King David, when he was on the run from his son, Absalom, look upon it as the providence of God when Shemei cursed him and cast stones at him. Instead of having his men kill Shemei, he stated, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done unto me, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing of me this day” (2 Sam 16). Let us look upon our tribulations in similar fashion.

Let us look at our gospel reading from Matthew 14:22-36. Jesus “made” his disciples get into the boat, knowing what was going to occur. He went upon the mountain to pray, knowing his disciples would be terrified, being tossed about by the waves. This is not a large ship, but a relatively small boat. They were miles from shore; it was evening. The evening turned into night. The night became pitch black. They can’t see their hand in front of their face. They have been on the lake for hours. They have no idea where they are now. It is now the fourth watch of the night, the darkest hour before dawn, and Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. It is pitch dark; they can’t see each other, but they see a figure walking on the water. No wonder they thought it was a ghost.

When I was a Protestant, I heard many sermons about Peter walking to Jesus on the water. They would talk about Peter “getting out of his comfort zone.” I do not think St. Peter was very comfortable in that boat. He was terrified. I think that, when Jesus said, “Take courage; it is I,” St. Peter knew that, if it was indeed Jesus, he would be safer on the water with Jesus than in the boat. I think that is more in the character of St. Peter at the time.

With this passage, many different homilies could be drawn out. In the meditation of the day in the Magnificat, it said the boat represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the apostles. I will also agree with that. Jesus, knowing what was going to happen, sent his disciples out nevertheless. It was not for their harm, but for their good. Regardless of what was going on around them, they were safe in the boat. Jesus put them in the boat; they were safe. Jesus puts us in the Catholic Church; we are safe. It is when we leave the Church and focus on the world that we begin to sink. For this reason, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance. In this Sacrament, Jesus stretches out His hand and catches us up. He puts us back in the boat, the Catholic Church, and the wind dies down.

In this we see clearly the providence of God and some of the ways He work. What He did to the apostles, He does to the Catholic Church and each of us. When “bad” things happen, let us try not to lash out in anger, but in humility look to God as King David did. Let us remember that God put us in the situation; therefore, He will not forsake us. Even if we blow it severely, just as Israel and Judah did in Jeremiah’s day, the penalty which occurs is not for our destruction, but to bring us back to repentance. Though our sins make us scarlet, He will make us white as snow. He does not desire that any of us should perish but that we return to Him. TT