You have probably seen the cartoon: a longhaired, white robed, bearded old man, right hand poised to thrust a lightning bolt at an unsuspecting mortal caught in the commission of an (often minor) offense! This God, often portrayed in the fears of people who mistrust God’s love, I call the God of North American culture!
This is not the God of the Scriptures, not even in the passages in which God appears to be furiously angry, because God regularly repents: God regularly turns around and lovingly faces God’s people (see Jeremiah 26:19; Amos 7:3-6; Jonah 3:10).
Isaiah’s God says to the prisoners: Come out! Isaiah’s God will cut a road through all my mountains and make my highways level. This is reflects the ritual preparation of a path for an approaching King, but God prepares this path for the desolate… those in darkness… his people to whom God shows mercy!
The psalmist proclaims: The Lord is… compassionate… raises up all who fall down… is near to all… who call upon him in truth!
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is “the sent one” of the Father. Jesus is to be accepted as the living voice and presence of the Father. What Jesus does reflects the mind and actions of the Father. Healing, (understood as “work”) is forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the crippled man on the Sabbath and told him to carry his mat (also work and therefore forbidden). Jesus justified himself: My father is at work… so I am at work: meaning, “the Father is still giving life on the Sabbath so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes”.
Sometimes we cry out like Zion: The Lord has forsaken me; my lord has forgotten me: and God responds: Can a mother forget her infant…? Even should she should forget, I will never forget you, suggesting “I will be as a mother to you!” And Jesus promises: Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation but has passed from death to life.
- Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., Retreat Director, Bishop Molloy Retreat House, Jamaica, NY www.bishopmolloy.org