God's Perspective

(Homily for Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C)

As for those who disbelieve
their deeds are like a mirage in the desert
which the thirsty takes for water
til he reaches it to find that there was nothing.
--Al-Qur'an 24:39

Bottom line: If we have only a human perspective on salvation, we can easily fall into despair. Fortunately, today Jesus gives us God's perspective.

For the past three Sundays, Jesus has talked about salvation - from the human viewpoint. He speaks about the "narrow gate" to the kingdom of heaven. He offers us the key to the narrow gate, namely humility. And he tells us what the key costs - everything.

If Jesus stopped there, we could easily fall into despair. I give God so little; I hold back so much for myself. How can I be saved? Even St. Francis - at the end of his incredible life - admitted how little he had done. If salvation depended on our puny efforts, we would be lost. From a human perspective, it seems impossible.

Fortunately, this Sunday Jesus gives us another perspective - the divine perspective, God's viewpoint. He tells us that God is like a shepherd who devotes his energy to finding the one lost sheep. Or like the woman who spends all day scouring the house, looking for a single small coin.

To understand how God seeks the lost human soul, C.S. Lewis proposed this image: He asks us to imagine a young, muscular diver standing on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. The diver strips to nakedness then jumps from the precipice. He cuts thru the surface of the water at a violent speed then goes deeper and deeper. The brightly lit waters begin to dim and gradually become dark. Still he forces his body on until he reaches the bottom which is murky from centuries of decay. He plunges into the muck and with his outstretched hand grasps the prize he sought. Then up and up drawn by the growing light. When he breaks the surface he opens his palm in triumph. It contains a precious pearl. The terrible dive has changed his body forever, even his color is different, more like the dark green of the depth.

God seeks us. Like that diver, he makes an unimaginable effort. In Christ he takes our human nature in order to search for the lost sheep, the misplaced coin. In Christ God seeks you and me. Let's be honest. We are not so anxious for God to find us. We fear losing our "freedom" - our false freedom to do what we want, when we want. Jesus of course wants to give us true freedom, but we often do not see it that way. C.S. tells about how as a young man he had become an atheist. But he had a nagging fear that God might actually exist. Lewis describes his state of mind with these words: "Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat."

We run from God. Like a mouse from a cat, we hide from him. Francis Thompson in his poem, The Hound of Heaven, tells about how he tried to flee God. As a young man he studied medicine, hoping to find meaning and purpose. It did not work so he got involved in drugs. He came to such despair that he contemplated suicide. In the poem Thompson describes how he latched on to various philosophies that denied God: "I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind." He tried to distract himself with sensual pleasure, but it all turned sour. In the end he heard God say, "all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!" God sought him like a bloodhound. In the end Francis Thompson allowed God to find him. Weary, he fell into God's arms.

What about us? You and I were created by God and for God. We can have no happiness apart from him. Still, because of original sin, because of our own distorted hearts, because of the whisperings of the enemy, we keep thinking we can find our own happiness. We imagine we can find happiness and security apart from God, but that is a mirage. Only he can give us true freedom and fulfillment. He is the beauty we long to see - the music we long to hear. As God said to Francis Thompson: "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!"

We would not seek God unless he was first seeking us. We could call out to him unless he first called to us. He is the shepherd going after the lost sheep; the house searching for the coin; the young man diving for the pearl; the unrelenting bloodhound. This should give us confidence. We have done little, but God seeks us. Time to come out from hiding and entrust ourselves to him. Amen


Spanish Version

From Archives (24th Sunday, Year C):

2007: Never Give Up
2004: A Veneer of Forgiveness
2001: He Welcomes Sinners - And Dines With Them
1998: Why God Became Man

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

My bulletin column

St. Mary of the Valley Album

About Stephen Hawkings' Grand Design. (Note: He has been wrong in the past.

From Mark Shea:

We hear constantly about how there is a need for responsibility from conservatives that they not incite crazies in their midst to take drastic and deadly action by promoting apocalyptic panic a la Glenn Beck. And indeed, I agree with that. Every time some kook shoots an abortionist, we are told about the "atmosphere of violence" that supposedly pervades the prolife movement (something I have never witnessed or seen a hint of among the prolifers who immediately denounce the nutjobs like the guy who killed George Tiller).

But when crazy like this guy Lee shows up with Malthusian Panic Rhetoric regurgitated from a thousand NY Times articles about Man the Disease of Planet Earth, do we see anybody suggesting that maybe, just maybe, not all incitement proceeds from Glenn Beck and his paranoid follower?

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