Sunday, October 6, 2013
Want to Make God laugh.....
Last Sunday, as I was listening to Fr Joe Corel’s homily, I was reminded of an old saying, “You want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I look at that and both smile and wince. It leads to a conversation I have had many times over while doing vocation work for this diocese. God, the Creator of all things and all people, has a plan for that creation. That plan isn’t for things to simply run their natural course and fade into nothingness. It isn’t for billions of souls to careen off one another in the pursuit of billions of different dreams that have little to no connection to each other. God’s plan is for the eternal union of His creation. To that goal each of us has a part to play. Humanity was not created for condemnation (see Matthew 25:34). This is not say some will not suffer condemnation (see Matthew 25:41). God deposits in us abilities and gifts, desires and deep wants. He deposits them and then asks us to use them in such a way as to build up rather than to tear down (see Matthew 25: 14-30); He holds us accountable for what we chose to do with our gifts and abilities and where we allowed our desires and deep wants to take us. It makes a great difference what we do.
In his homily, Fr. Corel, talked about these things in reference to vocations. He readily points out that these are placed in us with a specific purpose in mind. They are also given with specific instructions. Who we are and what we have is to be used in order to unify by love, nurture by service, and enlighten through faith. It is a struggle, though. We live in a world that tells us to utilize what we have and who are to the best advantage for ourselves. We are told to follow our passions, something that until the present age has been seen has the least noble of all motivations. Careers and educations are built around the jockeying for the best for oneself. We are told that if we follow our passions, we will find joy. However, mountains of empirical data would point to the opposite.
In a recent poll done by Forbes magazine, careers/occupations were ranked by the amount of satisfaction one had with the career. Clergy were ranked as the most satisfied. The tag line for the information caught my eye, “The least worldly are the happiest.” I thought, “Hmmm, Isn’t that what Jesus said all along in the Gospels?” As I looked at the others (Firefighters, special ed teachers, for example) it was a list of occupations that all require high service and usually get lower pay. It was rather counter-intuitive to what society tells us. This poll has been played out time and again. It is our human nature: happiness and joy are not found in self-centeredness, but in service. So why do we resist when the empirical data proves what Jesus said all along?
In a word: trust. To leave oneself open to God’s will requires trust. Whether that will be towards marriage, professed religious life, priesthood, or remaining single, one must trust that God wants what is good for them and will give them the joy they so desire. To trust means that we surrender control. It means that we surrender our plans (as noble as they may be) and ask God what is His plan and what role do we play. There are several common objections. Let’s honestly deal with them.
The first is “I don’t want to.” Plain, simple, and up front lack of desire. You will notice that when God calls, 99% of the time he doesn’t ask…he tells. See Genesis 12: 1-3, Exodus 3:10, Jeremiah 1:4-5, I Samuel 16:12, Ezekiel 2: 1-6, Jonah 1:1-2, Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9, Mark 1:16-22, 2:13-14, Luke 1:31-33, 5:1-11,27, John 1:35-39, Acts 9:5-6. There is no ‘if you want to’ caveat attached. In fact, God doesn’t seemed troubled in the least with upsetting any plans they had for themselves. He had a plan for the salvation of all creation and that plan was more important to the whole than any singular plans they had for themselves. Could each of them have said no? Of Course. We hear of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Jeremiah, Jonah, the Apostles, the Blessed Mother, and Paul because they ended up either immediately or after a bit of rebellion saying yes. There is no such great record of those who ran and said no, but we know they did because of the evil humanity had fallen into. “I don’t want to” is not the answer of a loving son, but the answer of a rebel. God leaves us it up to us to choose. One answer carries his blessing, the other turns away from those blessings. We should never confuse free will with the right to rebel. Those that rebel against God cannot expect to share His blessings. The use of free will bears its consequences.
So is God going to curse me for not following His will? To answer this, I turn to Numbers 13:1- 14:25. God had brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to a land ’flowing with milk and honey’ that was to be theirs. God delivers them, provides for them, and now they are at the precipice of entering the Promised Land. They send men to look at the land before hand. They come back with tales that it is what God promised, but that there were also fortified cities and giants that dwelt there. The people became scared and refused to trust God’s love and would not enter. That was their choice. God’s response was that they would suffer the consequences of their choice. They were banished from the Promised Land and left to wander in the wasteland of the desert for 40 years. It was not what God wanted for them; it is what they chose in rejecting Him.
We do get to use our free will. Free will, though has consequences. God lets us follow those choices, but does not bless that which leads us away from His will. Some will say that God is making their lives miserable if they don’t do what He wants. How fair is that? The misery doesn’t come from God taking it out on them, it comes from the isolation they have chosen. It is unnecessary. The joylessness and restlessness are a byproduct of disobedience. There are so many wandering through deserts of their own creation; restless souls probing for meaning divorced from God’s will. The bigger question is, “Why put yourself through that, when following God’s will brings such joy?” Why go through all the drama, all the grief, and all the isolation? What is gained through rebellion?
Our God is not a god who accepts excuses. He doesn’t accept that one is too young (ask Samuel, David, and Jeremiah), too sinful (ask Peter and Paul), or just doesn’t want to (ask Jonah). He knows who we are, after all, he made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we can be like without the fear, isolation, anger, and excuses. He knows what we can be through His grace. Perhaps, then, we would do better to trust even when it looks like we will have face fears, stand tall, and sacrifice our own plans for that which is so much greater. God doesn’t care whether someone wants to follow His will. He calls. Our response matters.