Jesus recognizes God’s spirit

By Vinal Van Benthem | October 31, 2013

First reading from the Book of Wisdom describes God as ‘Lord and lover of souls’

“For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.”

The Baltimore Catechism’s answer to the question “Why did God make me?” is “God made me to know, love and serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next.” In other words, we are made to love God. But that’s not the end of the story. In the Book of Wisdom, God is called “… Lord and lover of souls …” In other words, God also loves us! God loves “… all things that are …” God made us and God loathes nothing that God has made.

In Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus inviting himself to dinner at the home of Zacchaeus, “… a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man … ,” wealthy probably because he not only collected the tax for Rome but also took a cut for himself. (The same feeling might be conveyed today by our response to the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you!”) Wisdom tells us that God’s spirit is in all things …and all people. Luke probably used this story to demonstrate how God’s spirit was working, even in this hated tax collector. 

But what about people who don’t give half their possessions to the poor? What about the young man accused of sharing government secrets with countries unfriendly to the United States? Or the woman who loved and protected him? Surely we’re not expected to believe that God’s spirit is in them? Or what about the Boston Marathon bombers? Or the student who recently opened fire at his school? Even if God did make them, is God’s spirit still in them?

We know that, even though the people hated Zacchaeus, Jesus recognized God’s spirit in him and went to dine at his house. But Zacchaeus wasn’t really all that bad. At least he offered to repay what he had taken. At least he didn’t betray his country or physically kill anyone. Surely God must loathe terrorists and people who shoot innocent children? Jesus wouldn’t invite himself to dinner at their houses … surely he wouldn’t do that … would he …?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.  

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