parallax background

“ACTS OF GOD”

INSIDERS, OUTSIDERS
May 21, 2020
DESIDERATA
May 23, 2020

Homily for Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter, 22 May 2020, Jn 16:20-23

Once we were having a meeting with representatives of an insurance company that was offering what they called a “pre-need package” for our priests. During his presentation, I heard the company representative using the expression “Acts of God” several times. I had to interrupt him and ask, “Pardon my ignorance, sir, but what do you mean by “Acts of God”? He said it was a legal term for natural disasters that were outside human control, like earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions, for which no person can be held responsible.
I wonder if the global pandemic that is presently affecting insured businesses around the world is now already included among the so-called “Acts of God.”
The second volume of St. Luke which we have been reading in bits and pieces for the past few weeks now, is called the Book of Acts. Of course we know that he’s talking about the “Acts of the Apostles”. But by this, Luke actually means The Acts of God through the apostles, and through the Church. If Luke had lived in our time, he would probably be as surprised as I am about the “Acts of God” being associated with natural disasters. It just does not sound consistent with the Christian faith.
Our Christian faith is Trinitarian. And every Sunday, we profess our faith, using either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed formula. All the articles that our creed contains are about the acts of God in history. None of them speaks about a destructive God. He is a Father who creates; his acts are CREATIVE. He is the Son who Redeems; his acts are REDEMPTIVE. He is the Holy Spirit who sustains; his Acts are SUSTAINING. Creating, redeeming, sustaining, I call these the dynamics of the one God who is LOVE.
And so we must be attentive all the time to be able to recognize the true ACTS OF GOD, God constantly at work, in the world. The sufferings that go with these acts are usually just a prelude or part of a process that is constantly creative, redeeming, and sustaining.
Paul and the rest of the apostles were fully aware of this. They regarded themselves as mere participants in the ACTS OF GOD. To be able to do this, they constantly attuned themselves to God through prayer, fasting, and penance, in order to be able to discern God’s will, to know God’s plan, and to be part of the process, no matter if it might cost them suffering or death.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul describes the work of the apostles as that of a nursing mother. “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” I wonder if he took his inspiration from Isaiah 49, where the prophet portrays God himself as a mother, “Does a mother forget her baby or the woman the child within her womb? Yet even if these forget I will never forget you.”
In today’s Gospel, John goes as far as compare the anguish that his disciples would have to go through with the birth pangs of a mother who gives birth to a child.
But, our Gospel continues, “After the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of her great joy that a child has been born into the world.” How many new Christian communities were born through the labors of Paul and his companions? Like the birthing process itself, the birth of each community had cost them a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
There were successes and failures in the Acts of the Apostles. But they did not take pride in the successes nor feel crushed by the failures. They remained fully conscious that this wasn’t their work, it was God’s work. The sense of detachment, or what St Ignatius Loyola might call HOLY INDIFFERENCE, is an important spiritual disposition in participating in the Creative and Salvific “Acts of God” through his Son our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, the Sustainer.
And so they remained confident that God would see things through in his own good time. I remember hearing that from the bishop after I made my promises of prayer, celibacy, and obedience at my Ordination. He said, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.” Those words are originally from Paul in Philippians 1:6.
Only people who allow God to act through them will remain undaunted even in times of crisis and difficulty. Perhaps we should adopt the same attitude during this challenging time of the Covid Pandemic. Like Paul, we can declare: “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor 4:9-10)

 

Leave a Reply

error: The Storytellers\\\' Society Inc. website content is protected.