Summary: As humans we need to live in trust -- there really is no other choice.
Second Sunday of Lent (B)
March 12, 2006
Gen. 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Rom. 8:31b-35, 37
Living In Trust
Life At Its Worst
At times, life is like being asked to kill our only child. It’s hard, cruel, beyond understanding. It goes against all of our natural feelings. No matter what we do, we can’t make any sense out of it. It seems absurd at best, cruel at worst. We’re afraid to watch the news or pick up a newspaper. How will we deal with the latest natural disaster, act of terrorism, human tragedy? At those times, no amount of intellectual understanding or human consolation seems to touch the desolation we feel.
It’s true that we can find a limited and temporary escape as we try to deaden the pain of living by drinking too much or seeking pleasure in forbidden places, but that escape soon wears out. The only path that is worth travelling at those times is the path of trust. And that path is not an easy one. Trust only comes from a strong and unshakable faith in the living God.
In today’s psalm we hear these consoling but challenging words:
I trusted, even when I said:
‘I am sorely afflicted’.
Here is a person who is deeply feeling the heaviness and burden of life. He is deeply afflicted. Yet, in the midst of his pain, he maintains his trust in God.
At times, trusting in God means that we don’t follow through on our feelings. A common misunderstanding of popular psychology says that we must act out of our feelings. When Abraham raised the knife to kill his only son, he wasn’t acting out of feelings. In fact, he was going against his deepest feelings – feelings of love and tenderness for his only child. He was acting out of trust – trust in a God who is love and compassion and who wants only what is good for us.
Driven By Feelings
Father Ron Rolheiser tells the following story: Several years ago, I sat with a friend who was trying to explain to me the reasons for his impending divorce. He was thirty-five years old, the father of three children, and had been married for nearly ten years. By all indications his marriage had not been a bad one, in fact, it had generally exhibited signs of considerable health. Moreover he was good-hearted and sincere, a person who would have been horrified to hear himself described as a womanizer, as unfaithful, as calloused, or as irresponsible.
What had happened? Quite simply he fell in love with someone else and now this new relationship was negating his marriage. So he spoke in this way: "This new love is more important than everything else in my life, including my wife and kids. It would be inhuman not to actualize it. I didn’t ask for this. It just happened! I know there are some awful consequences but this is what I have to do. I have no real choice now - I’m in love!"
Trust, Then Trust Some More
If we buy that kind of logic, we will lead lives that are filled with contradictions and confusion. Eventually, such living leads to nothing but chaos. To be true to what’s asked of you, sometimes you have to make a decision for value that goes against every emotion in your heart. So whether we are feeling despair at what is happening in our world, or elation at having fallen in love with someone whom we can’t have, the answer is not just to follow our feelings. We need to trust, and then to trust some more.
We need trust to get through those moments in our lives when we wake up to the terrible limitations that surround us. These limitations become like living fences that keep moving in closer and closer until we feel trapped. We all experience these daily limitations. We find ourselves living in a rather imperfect body with an imperfect partner, children whom we can’t control, weather that isn’t always favourable, a house that we would like to trade in for a newer model, a job which is less than satisfying, friends that we can’t always count on, and so forth. We each have our own list of limitations.
Faith doesn’t have you believe that you will have no worries, or that you will not make mistakes, or that you and your loved ones won’t sometimes too fall victim to accident, sickness, and suicide. What faith gives you is the assurance that God is good, that God can be trusted, that God won’t forget you, and that, despite any indication to the contrary, God is still solidly in charge of this universe.
“With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give”.