10th Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

I once read in an autobiography a catholic writer telling the story of his childhood, some 65 years ago. He had done something wrong and his father took his son’s hand and put it near a lit candle, not so close that it would burn him, but close enough that he could feel the flame’s heat.  The father asked how it felt and the son said ‘hot’.  The father replied “imagine that for eternity”.  The point of the story was that the son came to know that if he lived a bad life then it was likely that God would punish him by condemning him to hell.  

The idea that God is so harsh in his punishments and so quick in his condemnation may, on the one hand, lead to proper behavior because one is fearful of angering God, but on the other hand, it presents a face of God that does not correspond to the revelation in Jesus Christ. It is painful and sad when we ourselves think, or we hear others speaking of, a great fear of God.  In this week’s readings we do not see a God who doesn’t care or a God who is mean, but rather a God who is moved by compassion in the face of human suffering.  

In the First Reading from the First book of Kings, we have the story of a mother asking Elijah to intervene in her son’s illness.  The scripture says that Elijah prayed “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”  And it says that “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.”  In the Gospel we hear another story of a mother whose son had died.  When the Lord Jesus encountered the funeral procession and saw the weeping mother, who had not asked for his help, St Luke says that Christ “had compassion for her and said to her ‘Do not weep.’” The Lord touched the stretcher and said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” Scripture says that the “man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Even in the Second Reading, St Paul tells the story of his conversion: he had been chosen as an apostle by God, even though he had been a persecutor of the Church, seeking to destroy it.  Do these three stories sound like a God who wants to be feared for the punishments he can give?  

On the contrary, we can see in Christ that our God has an eternal compassion for us.  And the eternal compassion of our God is an expression of the eternal love he has for us.  As a consequence, our relationship with God in our life, in our faith, and in our prayer, does not need to be motivated by fear.  It can, if we let it, be moved by love.  When I think of my sinfulness and all my short-comings and yet at the same time, how the Father’s love is always poured into my heart, I cannot but think how great is our God.  Our God does not want servants who serve from fear.  He does not want robots.  He wants children who know they are loved by him.  Let’s stop making God into someone he’s not.  And let’s see and know God for who he is.  Our hearts are free because we are freely loved by him.  We are coming to know we cannot lose our Father; that our Father will not abandon us because today we hear that our God is moved by compassion. And that he is moved by compassion because he is love—because he is in love with us.

God Bless and Take Care!

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