Sunday, November 03, 2013

Do you wish God loved you less? (Sunday homily)

That first reading is rather beautiful, isn’t it?
As it describes both Creation—and all that is in it—
As well as God’s merciful concern for Creation.

It’s very pleasing to think about how much
God cares for his Creation,
no matter how insignificant it might seem.

As the reading said: The whole universe is—to God—
like “a drop of morning dew.”

And yet he cares!

Notice what the author goes on to say:

“Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little…
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!”

Notice how beautifully this matches up with the Gospel story.
First we see God looking down at the entire Cosmos as if a grain of sand.
Then we see God entering into this world, so small to him—
and there he is, walking along the road to Jericho!
Then we have a small man, easily missed in the crowd, who climbs a tree.
And God looks up and says, I want to come to your house today!

He does go to the man’s house—and people see it, and disapprove.
And Jesus has a powerful effect on Zacchaeus, changing his life.

But while our Lord sat with this lost son of Abraham, what did he say?

Whatever he actually said, does anyone think he didn’t challenge him?
That visit didn’t just bring a marginal change—but a radical change.
So why are people so surprised when we, in our time,
Find the teachings or demands of our Faith are so challenging?

Or, how about this?

If Jesus came to your house today, would he challenge you on anything?
For myself, I confess I don’t like my question.
But Zacchaeus’ response suggests Jesus maybe got to him.

It reminds me of something the C.S. Lewis said:
God pays us the “intolerable compliment” of loving us very deeply—
and therefore, caring intensely about what becomes of us.

God is the artist—and like an artist,
he might make a simple sketch to amuse a child—
and not worry too much about how well it’s done.

But, as Lewis said, “over the great picture of his life,”
the artist “will take endless trouble”
and if the picture could feel, it might, after being
“rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time,”
wish it were just a thumbnail sketch that wasn’t so important.

You see the point? When God works at us—
and pushes and prods us to change—
that’s when it’s very tempting 
to wish God would leave us alone, instead.

November is the month we set aside 
to pray especially for those who have died. 

What we’re praying for is that God will finish the work 
of their salvation in a personal way. 

But pay close attention to what I just said.
Purgatory completes something that began in this life.
We start on the path to heaven here—
by answering the same invitation Zacchaeus accepted: 
welcoming Jesus into our lives—and letting him change us.

Folks wonder why people walk away from their Faith. 
And they’ll say, it’s because the Church is too demanding. 
That’s true, in a sense.

My grandmother used to say 
being Catholic can be a hard life, but an easy death. 
And that’s what a lot of people reject.

Another way to put it is, 
a lot of people want a God who will leave them alone, 
leave them be just the way they are.

But to quote Lewis once more: 
when we “wish that God had designed for us 
a less glorious and less arduous destiny…
we are wishing not for more love but for less.”

1 comment:

Shelly said...

Father, this is wonderful! What an incredibly discomforting question - if Jesus came to my house today . . . . This homily made me think of God's Love as the love I have for my own children: encouraging, pushing, correcting so they will move toward their potential, but of course, my love isn't perfect - sometimes I don't posses enough love, but God's Love is perfect and He always has "enough". There is much he would challenge me on, and much he does challenge me on. Is my house even ready for Jesus? No, but he comes anyway. Lord, help me to be more grateful of Your Love.