God our confidence

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 18 June 2023
Exodus 19:2-6 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:6-11 ><}}}}*> Matthew 9:36-10:8
Photo by Ms. April Oliveros at Mt. Pulag, March 2023.

Irecently had a long lunch that extended to a longer dinner recently with a good friend who was widowed last January. It was the first time we met again after the funeral of her husband who died three weeks after I had anointed him last Christmas Day.

She was still grieving and yes, angry with God why her husband had to go at an early age. She told me how during her daily prayers she would complain to God, and how she wanted her husband to be still alive, not minding at all of nursing him again.

Likewise, she was worried God might be fed up with her, even mad and angry with her negative feelings and attitudes even though she prays and celebrates Mass more often these days since her husband’s demise.

Photo by Ms. April Oliveros at Mt. Pulag, March 2023.

Does God get angry with us?

The psalmist says, “But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true” (Ps. 86:15). If God is slow to anger, does it mean he gets angry, even sometimes?

No. Never.

God does not get angry at all because God is love. God is perfect unlike us who easily get angry and could remain angry over a long period of time because we are imperfect. But God, who is also spirit, does not have emotions, neither gets angry nor irritated with us and yet, always one with us in our feelings especially when we are down in pain and sufferings.

In Christ Jesus who became human like us in everything except sin, God became more one with us to prove his love and oneness for us.

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send our laborers for his harvest.”

Matthew 9:36-38

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, GMA-7 News, June 2020.

See how Matthew noted that “At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” So beautiful. So powerful.

That expression his “heart was moved with pity” is the literal meaning of the Latin word misericordia – mercy in English – that means “a heart moved strongly” like disturbed or thrown off perhaps. More than just a feeling, that virtue of mercy is expressed into compassion which is another Latin word that means “to suffer with” or cum patior. Matthew here is telling us it was more than a feeling for Jesus to have his heart moved with pity but a firm resolve to uplift the crowds because in the first place he has that oneness with them.

Until now in our own time, that heart of Jesus is moved with pity for us whenever he sees us troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Just like my friend grieving the loss of her husband. Or anyone who had lost a beloved, a leg or a part of the body, maybe a job or a career, a dream or a future.

For Jesus, it is always the person who matters that is why his proposal has always been to send us another person, another companion, a fellow to accompany us in our brokenness and darkness. There is his move of gathering us, calling us, and sending us forth to a mission.

Jesus never taught us to ask for more money nor food nor gadgets to solve the problems of the world. Recall his temptation in the desert when he rejected the devil’s challenge to change stones into bread because man does not live by bread alone but with every word from God.

For the world, everything is a problem to be solved, including mysteries of God and of the human person. As we have reflected the past two Sundays, mysteries are not problems and therefore not solvable at all. Mysteries are non-logical realities we must embrace or even allow ourselves to be wrapped with to discover the richness and meaning of this life like God and persons.

When people are down and lost in this life, feeling troubled and abandoned, where do we focus more, to their woes and problems or their very persons? Try thinking of the people you consider as “heaven sent” and helped you in your darkest moments. Are they not the ones who brought out our giftedness as a person, as a beloved child of God with Christ’s gospel?

Photo by author, December 2022 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Problem these days, many people no longer believe in God totally, not giving a care at all with the value and meaning of justification and salvation, of reconciliation and communion in Christ through one another that St. Paul explained in the second reading.

Modern man has become so complacent that he would be saved by a loving and merciful God. It is a wrong kind of confidence because it is a confidence in one’s own powers than in God’s saving act through Jesus Christ as St. Paul preached.

Sad to say, such kind of confidence afflicts mostly the so-called religious and pious ones in the Church, especially us priests and bishops who lose sight of the flock and of Christ in the process. No synod nor meetings and documents would make the local even Philippine Church attuned with the present time unless we the clergy and other disciples must first have our confidence in God, not in ourselves.

How tragic that we are still a Church so steeped in being a hierarchy, lightyears away from being any of the other models of the Church proposed by the late Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles: sacrament, herald, communion, and servant. Despite our many denials, priesthood is power and prestige where ministry is more of an office and a privilege. We are more concerned with the call, the vocation of priesthood totally ignoring the Caller, Jesus Christ. Visit any parish and chances are, you find the priest throwing his weight around – literally and figuratively speaking so that the sheep remain without a shepherd.

In the Old Testament, the image of Israel as a lost sheep was the result of failures and even of sins of infidelity of their religious and political leaders. History has proven not only in Israel but everywhere especially the Philippines that when there are failures in leadership in both the political and religious spheres, it is always the common people who suffer most.

Photo by Mr. Mon Macatangga, 12 May 2023.

If we think about it, Jesus could have reacted negatively at the sight of the crowds and even with us today. He could have felt angry and irritated, even annoyed, frustrated and disappointed with how we are wasting all his gifts and grace, his call and his mission. But Jesus chose empathy and sympathy because he always looks into our hearts, into our total person than to our sins and failures, mistakes and errors.

Let us return to our “desert of Sinai” spoken of in the first reading, a reminder of our turning point in life and history when God called and sent us to be a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation” whose confidence is in him alone, not in our very selves nor our programs and structures to find again the many lost sheep of our flock. It is never too late to make a U-turn for God is full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, loving and true. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!