13th Sunday after Pentecost 14.8.16 The goodness of God
The lowest level of faith is when we believe in God if the last thing that happened was favourable; and we cease to believe in Him if the last thing to happen was a disappointment.
We have to do better than that.
We need a faith which is robust, indestructible. If the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, nor must they prevail against any one of us.
Faith is a direct relationship between me and God. It does not depend on any other circumstance, or even on any other person.
If God never changes nor should our faith. We hold a constant relationship with Him no matter how much circumstances may fluctuate.
We are not accustomed to being so logical or so cool. Our emotions usually have too much influence to allow us to be so detached.
But like all spiritual qualities, faith can be increased, and this is part of our prayer today – that our faith will be as strong as it needs to be.
God never changes, but we do. On this point we must never change – that we have certain, unwavering trust that God will always be there for us; always working for our good and that of the whole world.
If He appears to have deserted us it cannot be so. He has His reasons, whether we understand them or not.
When we pray we tend to focus on our troubles, and what we need. If we have many needs, we may feel overwhelmed, and we might carry that feeling into our prayer, with the result that the prayer lacks conviction. We ask God to help, but we do not really think that He will.
If instead we begin the prayer with focus on God and His attributes, leaving aside for the moment our many needs – then we will experience a big difference.
The three young men in the furnace spent their time praising God! (Dan 3) The holy man Job, on hearing he had lost everything, said: Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1,21). The grateful leper returned praising God at the top of His voice (Lk 17,11-19).
Focusing on God, rather than ourselves gives us an entirely different viewpoint. We are beginning the prayer in strength rather than weakness.
The Church has always understood the need for prayer of praise.
It is easier to praise after receiving the desired blessing, but we should train ourselves to do the same both before and after the result.
Glory to God in the highest… Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Ps 150)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 |
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Psalm 105:1 |
And countless other such exhortations.
It might seem superfluous to tell God of His own goodness, but it is an expression of love, and also it serves to remind us of His goodness, and that in turn will strengthen our faith.
When afraid or sad, or in any negative state of mind, we need reassurance. The praise of God will gradually revive us.
At first it might sound just like words, but the deeper reality will seep through and give us more courage, hope, joy etc.
This will be so especially if we praise God regularly, and work it into our normal patterns of thought. If we are always extolling the goodness of God we have a much stronger basis for understanding what is happening around us, and for absorbing any suffering that comes our way.
Our troubles will melt in the light of God's goodness. If He is so good how can anything bad have power over us? It cannot, and therefore we must be happy, even if we did not know it!
Let us imitate the leper, and all the other people in the Bible who have expressed great joy at the goodness of the Lord.