The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China Unsplash

God's Word on Sunday: Let God relate to us in encouraging ways

  • June 27, 2019

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 7 (Year C) Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Is God more than a warrior or a father? 

The Old Testament often describes God with masculine and warrior imagery. For many people, those images paint a complete picture of God. They certainly have a role, but they are only part of the portrait. 

The people were struggling with the reality of the ruined land and city after their return from exile in the mid-sixth century BC. They had been promised restoration and a glorious future, but it was not happening. Jerusalem and the temple were a mere shadow of what they had been prior to the exile. 

Amid Israel’s pain and sorrow, God came to them cloaked in feminine symbols. God promised to restore prosperity to Jerusalem so that the people could be nursed from Jerusalem’s breasts. Then God took on the role of a loving mother, promising that He would comfort the people as a mother comforts her child. Their hearts and souls would be revived, and they would experience prosperity, health and joy. 

God relates to us in a way that is meaningful and encouraging — what we need to see and hear at a particular moment. We may experience God in different ways at various points in our lives. At times it will be in power and strength, while other times God will relate to us in gentleness and tenderness. 

In fact, humanity’s understanding and experience of God also changes, adapting to human experience and understanding as well the needs of the time. It is not helpful or fruitful to use only ancient conceptions of God to make our way through the 21st century and third millennium. 

Perhaps we can step aside and let God relate to us in the way that is most useful and helpful for us. As in last week’s reflection, God will always be far above and beyond any word, image or symbol that we use.

The burning issue in the first century of Christianity was the status of Gentile converts. Did they have to observe the Jewish law in its entirety, including circumcision? 

One faction within the community insisted on it: to become a follower of Jesus meant becoming a Jew first. Others, like Paul, were convinced that in the new age being born, faith was to be the distinguishing mark of a member of God’s household. 

In Galatians, Paul says something rather puzzling: Circumcision is nothing and non-circumcision is nothing. We would expect him to come down on one side of the issue or the other. But he insisted that both positions were no longer relevant: God was creating the world and humanity anew in Christ — the new creation was all that mattered. 

This is a good antidote to the extremism and polarized way of thinking and speaking that has us in its grip. Perhaps neither pole is completely correct or wrong — maybe God is creating something new that will transcend both.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus deputized 70 of His followers and sent them out to proclaim the imminent arrival of God’s reign. Other than curing the sick, this was the extent of their mission. This was to be God’s show, not theirs. They would experience extreme vulnerability and dependence on God, going with only the clothes on their backs and without funds. 

The 70 were a bit enamoured by the power they seemed to have — they were excited that even the demons submitted to them. Jesus commented that with the arrival of God’s reign, the power of Satan was indeed broken, for He saw him fall like lightning. 

He reminded them of the immense power He had given them. But it came with a warning: Rejoice not in that power, but in the fact that your names are written in Heaven. 

Being on the side of God and the angels was and still is of supreme importance, far more than power, authority or reputation. 

The lesson for our own times: travel light, trust in divine providence, proclaim the good news and rouse the hearts and minds of people to receive God. There is no greater mission than this.

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