27th Thursday in Ordinary Time
What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or a scorpion when he ask for an egg? St Matthew does not include the scorpion but mentions the stone for bread swap. In any case Jesus is assuming no earthly father would do this sort of thing? But suppose he did. If a child asked for bread and his father gave him a stone. It would be deeply shocking and shaming. You are not worth the trouble. You are a piece of junk. Suppose a child asked for a fish and received a snake from his father. It would be positively dangerous. I wish you were dead.
Unfortunately the father experience for so many is precisely this – deeply shaming or what is worse positively dangerous. You have so many moving through life with this wound. Unaffirmed in the most fundamental sort of way. The wound so large and so consuming, that they are unable to love others, to see the need of others, to serve others. Their lives are wholly self-referential. Like a black hole in space sucking all the light around it.
It is said of St Therese that she, with no difficulty at all, could turn to God as her Father because on the earthly level she had the experience of a saintly father who truly loved her. The psychological warmth was the springboard for her trust in the Father even in the face of crushing spiritual darkness.
What about those who are deprived of this, who have no earthly analogy to launch them to trust God as Father, who have no warmth but the coldness of abandonment? How can they bridge the chasm?
I think it is very difficult but not impossible. We will have to base ourselves not on feeling but on fact. Our default position is to wallow in our personal, mundane truth of mistrust and shame. Faith means going beyond this mundane truth and basing yourself on the word God has spoken about Himself. Our personal truth obviously drag us back into disbelief and cynicism but this is where the Word must anchor us until stubborn faith and hope through the baffling alchemy of grace turns into personal experience.
We can protest and say – but I cannot, I cannot feel it. It leaves me cold. It is a waste of time. It is pie in the sky. It is the opiate of the people. Let us take the realistic advice of Job’s wife – curse God and die. But these are flimsy excuses for those who desire to wallow in the despair of their experience or even the despair of their sin.
If God has spoken His Word. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son – If He has spoken His Word in this manner, it is because He has created us as hearers of this Word. He would not have wasted His time speaking if He had not created hearts could hear this. At the deepest level of our being, we can hear this Word. It is just that we have grown used to our cynicism. We have not taken the time to ponder the Word. We prefer to wallow like a sow in the mire of our own limited truth. We have closed our eyes to the deifying light all around us – in nature, in small tokens of God’s providence. We have stopped praying and closed up springs of the Spirit deep in us.
Jesus tells us not to stop praying. For prayer that goes on praying is already trust – a turning from the almost implacable downward pull of our disbelief toward the majestic and towering light of God’s Word shining amidst the darkness.