Do you understand God?
It’s pretty impossible to get your head around God’s promises. Take the story of Abraham, in this Sunday’s first reading from Genesis. God has given Abraham a son in his old age, only to ask him to sacrifice Isaac on a height God will point out to him. What? How can that possibly make sense? But Abraham does not question God, not once: he has embraced God over all, and follows God’s instructions to the letter. Yes, the messenger stops him mid-deed. But ultimately, the story is about Abraham believing – having faith – when he cannot possibly understand God’s plan. He doesn’t need to get his head around God’s request: he simply trusts. The psalmist likewise believes, even when he cannot understand; he keeps the faith, even when afflicted, knowing that precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones (Psalm 116), trusting in God’s infinite mercy in his time of difficulty.
Jesus is the son of [God’s] handmaid: born into the slavery that is human existence, Jesus takes this identity on fully; like the psalmist, he will know great affliction. Paul recognizes this in his letter to the Romans: God did not spare his own son, handing him over for us all. Unlike Isaac, God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed, to die and be raised. Is this a reality we can get our heads around? Is it, really? Or is God’s love simply greater than anything we can imagine? The disciples certainly don’t get it, even when they are on the mountain with Jesus in Mark's Gospel. Having heard him predict his own Passion, they witness his Transfiguration before their very eyes. Peter hardly knew what to say, and the disciples will continue to question what rising from the dead meant in the aftermath of this remarkable event. Although they hear God’s statement – Listen to him – they really have no clue what it all means. Not yet.
It is a part of the human condition to live with doubt, to be overwhelmed by the ineffable – it’s hard to get what God is about in our lives. Understanding the revelation, comprehending what God has done – sending his son, handing him over, raising him – takes time, and we’re still working it. Hang in there… In the end, it will surely be worth it!
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source: Wordle