Finding the Lord

By | February 10, 2010

In the first reading Jeremiah calls on the Judean leaders to trust in the Lord and not in “human beings” or in the “strength of their own flesh” or to allow their hearts to “turn away from the Lord.” It can be hard to accept that human beings are weak and flawed, even the saintly ones, and that they can fail us. It can be challenging to not trust in the “strength of our own flesh”, or cunning or intellect before the passage of time reveals our own misplaced trust. It can be tempting to “turn away from the Lord,” and design our own easier curricula of right and wrong only to find that the laws of the Lord based on love and truth yield a happier end.

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

Paul is a soul who trusted deeply in the Lord. He moved from being a persecutor of the church to the great promoter of the saving Gospel. Paul’s trust was driven by his knowledge that the Jesus he once dismissed as dead was actually the living God himself. Paul knew this from encountering Jesus himself. It changed everything. He declares today that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith, is in vain; you are still in your sins…we are the most pitiable people of all.” But this is not the case declares Paul, and rather Christ is alive and absolutely everything hinges on him.

Coming to this realization is at the heart of the Christian spiritual life. Is it credible to believe in the resurrected Jesus? There are truths that we can list which make this belief reasonable. We can point to the empty tomb and that there is no body. We can point to the apostles, like Paul, who shed blood testifying to the fact that they had seen Jesus and that he was the living God. There are hundreds of witnesses recorded in Acts. There is the change of the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday by his devout Jewish disciples underlining the radical resurrection event of that first Easter morning.

The faithful Jewish disciples declared him to be God. Paul himself is evidence. There are more but all pale in comparison to one’s personal encounter with the Lord. Meeting him as alive takes us to the next level of Christian life. For this gift, many persons must often wait upon the Lord in prayer, service and fasting. The encounter may not come as they wish. This should not however push us away from faith. Our personal encounter with God is not the grounding of reality. That would be as if we were saying “unless I encounter him myself, he is not real, and everyone else’s experiences over the millennia have been pipe dreams.”

Whether we have met him in the past, know him now, or are still seeking him, the location where he is found is alluded to today in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount transferred to a “level ground.” He is found with “the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, excluded and insulted on account of the Son of Man.” He is not to be found with the self-satisfied rich, the filled, the laughing or the highly flattered. The suffering ones have a desire for God and he can come to them. Those who are comfortable often struggle with desiring more, even the supernatural. We may lament our many anguishes in this life, but in them, there is a space for God.

Questions for Reflection

1. Where do I rely too much on others, my own strength or my own ways?

2. What are my encounters with the Lord?

3. Where in my life do I have a need for God?

 

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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