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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Encountering God in our World

Does God really care? Does God actually enter our human life? Our history? Sometimes this is hard to recognize. Evidence to the contrary may be drawn from the wars and political upsets around the globe, the in equalities and injustices that mark so much of the world’s peoples. Even within our own personal and communal lives there are so many instances where facing health, economic, and relational issues leave many of us wondering about our faith in God’s presence among us and whether in fact, God does care.

Our Jewish ancestors in the Old Testament as well as our Islamic cousins hold the view of Christians that God indeed does care and does speak to us and enter into our story. We can recognize this encounter with God time and again in the stories of our faith, our scriptures.

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to have a very capable and wise scripture professor . He noted a principle that helps us to recognize the manner in which God speaks to us. He stated the principle in this way: If God speaks to humanity, God speaks in human language. If God did not use human language, humanity could not hear God. We hold in faith that God does care and that God does touch our human story. How then, does God speak in human terms?

God speaks or acts in human history by way of created instruments. Just as we know an artist or an author through the works of the artist or the author, so too we come to recognize or hear God through the works of God that are all around us. We sense God in the marvels and wonders of nature and of humanity. Just think of the sense of wonder that comes from looking at the heavens on a clear starry night. Or recall a moment when you were able to gaze on a new-born child. These are wonders of God the Creator, the giver of life. They are ways in which we encounter God-with-us.

The readings of this Sunday help us to see further how God speaks to us in human terms. In our scriptures, both the Old and New Testament we hear of God using human instruments to enter our human story. In the first reading this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah, himself an instrument of God speaks of the Persian King, Cyrus. As Isaiah describes it, Cyrus, a pagan king becomes the instrument by which God saves the People of Israel from exile and returns them to their land. Cyrus is the means by which God intervenes in the history of God’s People.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear one of the stories of Jesus’ discussing with the Pharisees. They try to trap him into denying his Judaism or into speaking against Roman authority. Jesus response to them is to do neither. As we hear this story, however, we are drawn into a recognition that faith and our relationship with God is lived out in the midst of the secular world. Jesus points out to the Pharisees that they are to give to God what belongs to God and to the emperor what belongs to him.

We live in a complex world of the secular and the spiritual. Neither denies or excludes the other. The story of Christian faith is founded on what we refer to as the Incarnation. That is, one of the foundations of our faith is that God enters our human condition in the person of Jesus Christ, God and human. This basic belief is the fullest expression that God speaks to us in human terms. This belief is a proclamation that all humanity, all human life, all human history is touched by the presence of God. God truly does speak to us in human terms? Do we hear and recognize God in creation, in humanity, in one another? To do so is to know that God really does care and that we can see it all around ourselves.

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