The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 21st, 2022 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 13:22-30
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I am the product of Catholic education. What I valued most about that in my early years was that I received a set of directions on how to live now so that I would eventually end up in heaven after I died. Gaining entrance to the final Kingdom of God was up to me. In early adulthood, I entered vowed religious life and one of the first things I learned was this: “If you keep the rule, the rule will keep you.” Again, it was all up to me. And all along the way, I kept a kind of scorecard on how I was doing. I did not want to fail in the life I was given.
As I entered adulthood and advanced in the study of my religious faith, I came across something that caused me to rethink my personal religious approach to life. In brief, I learned about the nature of God’s grace and God’s ways with us. One of the biggest revisions I had to make concerned this idea that I was in charge. Slowly I came to understand (however imperfectly) that God was in charge and that God’s ways are not under my control. I had to learn that it was not my job to control God but rather to let God control mine. And if I was led in ways I didn’t understand, I had to learn to trust God.
The people described in today’s gospel had their set of rules for living what they thought of as God’s plan for them. Biblical historians tell us that some of the good people of those times had hundreds of rules and guidelines for insuring they were right with God. What did Jesus think about their holy playbook? They wanted assurances from him that their approach was the correct one.
In brief, Jesus taught them not to be so sure about what they thought. He didn’t condemn their rules, but he clearly gave them the impression that their calculations of holiness were not to be viewed as the last word. God’s ways are in a sense beyond us but that is not a bad thing. While we cannot fully comprehend the mind of God, we can know God’s heart. And we can trust that God’s ways are the best. Both for us and for everyone.
While I am not taken by every contemporary technology, I really appreciate the GPS app on my phone. It tells me where I am and where I need to go to arrive at my destination. I wonder what would appear on my screen if I asked my GPS how to get to God. Probably nothing. But also (perhaps) a message from God telling me not to worry. God has taken over the steering of my life. (Like some of today’s new cars.) So, relax, David, and enjoy the scenery. And love those you travel with along life’s ever winding, ever surprising road.
©David M. Thomas, PhD