19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – August 7, 2022
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48
Waiting Must Have Been the Hardest Part
Last week we dove into that great story of the rescue of the boys from that cave in Thailand. There was so much that went into their rescue! And at the heart of it was the fact that someone arrived and offered them what they truly needed, rescue. And all they needed to do was trust them. Literally, entrust their entire lives to those divers.
But can you imagine sitting in that cave for the nine days before they showed up? Nine days. No sign of hope or rescue. Nine days thinking that you are going to die in this cave. The waiting must have been brutal. What gave them hope—their hope came from the sight of the divers! After nine days of waiting, the divers poked their heads above the water—and boom, there was hope! Their arrival brought hope.
But don’t forget: it was another eight days, eight more long days of waiting before they are all rescued! But what had changed? Their waiting is now imbued with great hope. Why? Well, the divers had arrived. And even though they left, there was a diver who stayed with them: a presence remained as a lasting sign of hope. There was food: food was now available to sustain them in their waiting. And there was a path: a path to freedom and life was opened, even though they couldn’t yet go through it.
So what was their job? To wait. The great task of their life was to wait. That’s the name of our game as Christians, as Catholics. We await. We await the completion of the Father’s plan to rescue us. Because of what Jesus has done, we are now the children of a good Father, a Father we can surrender and entrust our lives to—and our job is to wait.
Is God Really A Good, Almighty Father?
In today’s collect, today’s opening prayer, we prayed: “Bring…to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters” (Collect, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time). What is that prayer saying? Why is this “spirit of adoption” so important? It’s saying that we don’t always recognize our status as children of the Father; at times, we don’t truly believe that we have been adopted into his family; we don’t fully grasp or believe what this entails—and so (often unknowingly) we are rejecting our status as God’s children, we start trying to rescue ourselves—we stop waiting.
Every Sunday, right after the homily, we all stand and recite the Creed. And we say, “I believe in one God, the father almighty.” First thing, line number one: “I believe in one God, the father almighty.” And the question that today’s liturgy (todays’ prayers and readings) pose to us is: Do you really? Do you really believe that God is a father? Do you really believe that he is almighty?
There is a common objection out there. It’s trotted out by the media all the time; they think they’re so original. But it goes something like, “If God is all good, why does he allow bad things to happen?” People think they are the first one’s to come up with this objection (it’s comical, really, but human pride usually is). But it’s been made since the beginning—literally.
And yet we stand up every Sunday and affirm that He is a father, a good father, an almighty, all-powerful father. How can we say this so casually?
Losing Confidence or Gaining Confidence?
Because look around: there is so much going on in the world, our nation, our state, our city, our families, our own lives that leads us to begin to ask this question: “Is God really all good and all powerful? Is God really a good father?” How can we stand up Sunday after Sunday and profess with confidence, “Yes! God is a father; a good, good father!” when there seems to be all of this evidence against it? Or maybe we just say it because we’re supposed to, and we don’t really believe it. Maybe our opening prayer is actually very pertinent to our lives.
I recently had an experience that helped me to begin to grow in my confidence in that statement. When you’re the young seminarian and priest, you are often tasked with taking care of the youth. So I spent a lot of time working with high school and middle school kids. Buckets of time! There was this one kid in particular that I had spent lots of time working with—they had a lot they were dealing with and working through. And so it was a great privilege to be with them, to help them not just give up on it all. Well, they moved on to college, I moved on to Lyons, and I hadn’t talked to them in a while. Until one day I see an update on Facebook: they’ve left the Catholic Church to join some other protestant denomination. It was disheartening. So much time and attention, and yet the person still leaves the faith. It really knocked me down. “Is this even worth my time? Should I even invest in people? Why keep trying? Why even bother? People are just going to leave anyway.” Those were the lines I immediately started hearing. It was so discouraging, so demoralizing.
But this is what happened. Literally a week later, I was back down in Wichita hanging out with some friends on my day off, and we were going to go grab some dinner. And of course, we were going to go to Chik-fil-A—best restaurant in the world! But as dinner drew closer, I had really lost my appetite for Chik-fil-A—which never happens! And so I went to my second go-to: sushi. And sushi didn’t even sound good! So we ended up going to just the first random restaurant that popped into our heads. And while we were sitting there, in walked this person. And so we talked, and they told me what was going on, that they had left the Church and all—so it’s not like they converted back just be seeing me. But in that moment, there was a great consolation given to me. It was one of those “God moments.” Not a coincidence! Remember: I’m not ever not craving Chik-fil-A. No coincidence, a God moment. And in that moment I clearly had this sense of God saying, “It’s ok. Trust me. I have this person’s life in my hands. I am a good Father. I am almighty. I can enter their life. Trust me. Wait for what I am doing, and trust me.”
The Enemy’s Tactic: Cast the Father In Suspicion
There in that moment, when I was beginning to lose confidence, when I was beginning to hear and believe the lies of, “Is this even worth my time? Why keep trying? Why even bother?”—in that moment when I was beginning to lose confidence in God as a father, a good father—in that moment my confidence in the Father was restored!
Those lies that I began to hear didn’t come from nowhere. They came from the Father of Lies himself, the Enemy himself. As I’ve told you before, the great strategy of the Devil isn’t to try to possess you like you see in some exorcism movie, no. His great strategy is to deceive you, to cast the Father in suspicion so that you lose confidence in him and go at it alone. And the lie goes something like this: “God is not a father, or at least not a good father. And you can’t trust Him. Would a good Father really let this happen?” God, the Father is cast in suspicion. In experiences like mine and in the many experiences that you all could easily share with me—we start to hear those lies, the lies that tell us that God is not to be trusted. Think of your own situations or concerns: what are the lines you hear? Those lines, those lies are leading us to reject our status as sons and daughters of a Good Father, and to set out on our own.
Has anyone ever watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Classic film. But in that film there is the scene in the Art Institute of Chicago where they are looking at the painting Sunday on La Grande Jatte, painted by Georges Seurat. This painting is painted in a style called pointillism: millions of little dots together forming a larger picture. Well, in the movie, the camera has these alternating shots between the character Cameron and this painting. Cameron is nihilistic, and sick: sick of the uncertainty of his future, sick of his own father’s lack of love. And in this scene, the camera goes back and forth between Cameron and this painting as Cameron endures this existential crisis. And as it gets closer and closer to the painting, closer and closer to Cameron’s face—it reveals that up close this painting makes absolutely no sense! It’s just a bunch of dots!
This is the Enemy’s tactic! The Enemy is trying to get you, to get me to focus in on the little tiny experiences, to focus in on one thing, one thing that sows suspicion—and to get you to neglect the bigger masterpiece the Father is working on, to put you and your faith in cries: “This ‘God is a good, almighty father’ is nonsense!” That’s what we hear. And yet, if only you step back from the painting are you able to see the great masterpiece.
Where does this confidence come from? Waiting.
Ok, so the great key which allows the spirit of adoption as sons and daughters of a good father to be perfected in our hearts—the great key to avoiding the pitfalls and demoralization and deception and crisis sown by Enemy—the key for us? Waiting. And we hate waiting! We are the worst when it comes to waiting. Our normal response? Set out on our own, provide our own solutions, convince ourselves that if anything is going to get better, if anything is going to be done, we have to be the ones to do it. But this is precisely what our readings are contradicting!
The first reading from Wisdom is about how God’s people had great courage even in the midst of their current challenges. Why? Because they could look back on the events of the Passover and Exodus. Just as during that time they had no clue how God was going to rescue them, they didn’t know the particulars of the Father’s plan—they entrusted their lives to him and his plan, and waited. One of the most well-known bible stories is when Moses is leading the people out of Egypt. They find themselves backed up against the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army is pursuing them, and they are just terrified! Because there’s nothing they can do! It’s impossible! But then Moses says something in Exodus 14:14. He says, “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be silent.” And that’s when God parts the Red Sea and He does the impossible. And the people are saved. The people waited, and the Father came through.
Jesus in the Gospel today says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms” (Luke 12:32-33). Jesus looks at the disciples and says, “Don’t you get it? You don’t have to try to do all of this on your own! The Father is pleased, he is glad, he delights in giving you the kingdom!” And Jesus follows it up by saying, “So go sell your belongs, give alms, stop worrying about this worldly definition of success and control!” Then he tells a parable where the point of is, “Be like servants who await their master’s return” (Luke 12:36). “The Father will give you the kingdom! Just wait for him to do it! Wait for his return!”
Again, think back to the boys in the cave. They did not have to do anything to rescue themselves. They simply had to wait! Between the day the divers arrived and the day they were ultimately rescued everything was provided, everything was given to them. There was a diver who stayed with them: a presence remained to give hope. There was daily food to sustain them in their waiting. And there was a path: a path to freedom and life, even though they couldn’t yet go through it. What was their job? To wait. The great task of their life was to wait.
The Father sends Jesus Christ not to make everything better overnight, no. Jesus Christ is sent, he died on the cross, he rises from the dead—Jesus Christ comes as the great manifestation that God is here to rescue us. And a presence remains with us: Jesus himself remains present in the Eucharist. A food is given to us to sustain us: the Eucharist is here as our food. And a path to freedom and life is opened to us: “Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). The Eucharist is given, the kingdom is given. All that remains is our waiting.
Our Prayer and Hope
Our great prayer in this time is the Lord’s Prayer, continuing to call upon God as Father. We pray, “Bring to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters.” We pray for an unshakeable confidence in the Father’s goodness, his care for us! We pray for an unshakeable confidence not in what the world calls good, or in what the world says will provide for our needs, no. We have unshakeable confidence in the Father’s promise! We don’t know the particular ways the Father will rescue us, only that He will! Our job is to wait.
On the Cross, Jesus Christ gives us the image and the example. Even in this instance where all confidence in the Father’s goodness should be doubted, Jesus freely and willingly entered in, and waited. And the result? Resurrection. Complete rescue. Total vindication. Here on this altar, it is not just bread. It is that:Jesus’ own sacrifice and death on the cross made present; his complete confidence in the Father made present; our communion with Christ as a son and daughter willing to entrust everything to the Father with unshakeable confidence. We are children of a good, almighty Father. We can entrust, surrender our lives to him in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. And when we do, it’s a game changer.