30 October 2012
Our Camaraderie with God
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Many of the adults I talk to who have children who frequently misbehave, tell me that they feel like they are getting their just desserts. “Father,” they tell me, “when I was a kid I was a real trouble maker. I kept my mom and dad up late at night, worrying about whether I was ok. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but now that I have kids, I realize how difficult I made it for my mom and dad, and I appreciate all their love and concern all the more.”
There’s something about having someone know exactly what you’re going through that gives you a real sense of camaraderie. While anyone can be a critic, only coaches know how hard it is to get your players to perform at the level of which you know they are capable so the team can win. When there is a death of a loved one, especially a spouse, parent, or child, we rightfully support each other, but only one who has lost a spouse, parent, or child truly understands what that person is going through.
What camaraderie we have, then, with our God! God knows us. He knows us better than we do ourselves. He knows what will truly make us happy, and how we can best achieve that happiness. But the shocker is that, not only does God teach us how we are to live in order to be happy, but He joins us to Himself and experiences life just like we do, but without sin. This is the scandal of the Incarnation: that God, who existed before all else, who cannot suffer, who was subject to nothing, would lower Himself and take on human flesh and feel the heat of the burning sun, the cool of the desert night, would stub his toe occasionally while walking, and would be tempted to all the things we are, and then freely be nailed to a cross in order to save us. While we have grown used to this narrative over 2,000 years, this is truly amazing!! God did not have to join a human nature to His divine nature in Jesus. There was no compulsion to take on human limitations. But out of love for us, Jesus did all that.
In our first reading, God talks about how He will lead his people from exile into joy. He promises to bring gather them, and to console them after their sorrows. He will even make the road easy for them, without hills or valleys, without twists or turns. He will free them from their oppression. And in Jesus, God does that. In our Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man, Bartimaeus. He restores light and vision to the man’s eyes, the man who had walked in darkness for a long time. But God does not just do this like a magic trick. He does not simply will it to be from the heavens. Instead, He takes the journey with us, from exile into freedom, from darkness into light.
In Jesus, God knew the weight of sin, though He was sinless Himself. As holiness itself in a human body, Jesus could sense all the disobedience around Him. It must have made His very being convulse interiorly at the separation that sin causes. But, He took that sin upon Himself and freed us from it. It is as if He took our hand as we were lost, and told us, “I’ll lead you back home.” In Jesus, we could hold hands with God, and be led where we needed to go.
Although God knows the eye better than we do ourselves, in Jesus God sees with His eyes. He has eyes that receive light and shadow and color, and so as He comes to Bartimaeus and senses his faith, He restores sight to that man to bring him back into the light.
Our God is not the god of the deists, a disinterested clockmaker who set the world in motion and lets it work according to its mechanical rules. Our God is the loving Father, who sends His Son to experience life with us, and to show us the way to true happiness. Yes, He knows the pain of sin because He knows how He created us and He knows that sin does not fulfill who we are. But He also knows the weight and pain through Jesus’ human nature, such that He cries out from the cross using the words of King David in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Through always united to God, He drinks the pain of sin, not just a sip, but to the dregs, so that we can have life. Yes, God knows darkness because He separated the day from the night, but He also has eyes that see and experiences the joy of vision with human eyes.
So, do you know that God? Do you know the God who not only knows you because He is God, but because He has also taken to Himself human flesh, never to separate from it? Would you be comfortable enough having breakfast with this God? Or do you prefer the anonymous, distant god? To be honest, the anonymous, distant god is easier to deal with. It’s like that fourth cousin, once removed who lives in Mississippi. Sure, we’re family, but there’s no real relationship there. And that way, he makes no demands on me, and I make no demands on Him. We’re just associated with each other. Do you know Jesus such that you would be comfortable spending time with Him, and making a sacrifice for Him? A relationship means that there are demands on one’s affections. Friends do this and don’t do that. Jesus invites us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He invites us to be pure of heart, mind, and body. Jesus invites us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to value everything less than our relationship with Him. Those demands only make sense if we have a relationship with Him. If not, they just seem like rules and regulations.
The Good News is that Jesus knows us, and He knows the reality of our situation, in His human nature as one like us in all things but sin, and in His divine nature as our Creator. The upside is that, if we are willing to have a relationship with the God who took on human flesh, then we can grasp that fleshy hand as He says to us, “Come with me. Let me take you from the exile of sin into the freedom of holiness; from the darkness of death into the light of life.” “Come, follow me.”