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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God protects and cares for His people

The readings for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time call us into a new freedom by trusting in God's loving providence that surrounds us. As we open our eyes to this, anxiety is replaced with trustful abiding.

In the first reading, Isaiah expresses Israel's panic that God had forsaken her, since things aren't going Israel's way. God's response is poetically beautiful: "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she should forget, I will never forget you."

The mother's womb is the place where the child was, nurtured and protected. The mother is always conscious and protective of the child growing within. When that child is born, this same concern keeps the child safe and also nurtures the child with physical and emotional nourishment.

Hence, God says to Israel: "I created you as a nation. I led you out of slavery in Egypt; I fed and watered you in the desert. Do you not now trust that I will continue to care about you and protect you?"

The responsorial psalm celebrates what Israel has learned through hardship. "Only in God is my soul at rest; from Him comes my salvation." Looking back, Israel praises God in song for His ongoing care and concern.

In the second reading, Paul wrote that followers of Christ should consider themselves "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." The wonderful mysteries of God are essentially Christ's death, Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For followers of Christ, these mysteries are everything. They are the source of life in God, and they fill us with the hope of reigning with Him forever in heaven.

Against the background of these two readings, the Church invites us to embrace these mysteries to propel us toward the kingdom. If we truly believe in Christ's death, Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, everything in our lives is kept in perspective.

Granted, our senses constantly clamor for stimulants. Our stomachs constantly yearn for food and water. Our concupiscent drives always cry out for stimulation, and our irascible drives are always ready to erupt when dangers threaten our body or our ego.

Christ tells us that constant focus on these needs is slavery. After all, He created these appetites, and He will provide for their fulfillment in His time. When we focus on these passing needs, we're distracted from embracing the God who has always, is now and will always provide for these needs.

Jesus uses simple examples of nature to teach us: "Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them."

Christ asks us to contemplate God's providence in the natural beauty around us. Can the wild flowers beautify themselves? Can sparrows create food for tomorrow? Of course not, but they implicitly know that what they found today, they will find tomorrow also.

All of natural creation radiates the splendor of God. Gerard Manley Hopkins, in the poem, "God's Grandeur," writes:

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil...

And for all this, nature is never spent;

there lives the dearest freshness deep down things...

because the Holy Ghost over the bent

world broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings."

God is alive, sustaining nature and us. Nature trusts in God, yet so often we don't. In a sense, Jesus tells us to get with it and trust that God is providing for all of our needs.

We're called to actively see God in the present moment and embrace Him as He unfolds His life to us in our everyday circumstances. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, in a book entitled "Fire of Mercy" wrote: "My knowledge that God knows, cares, and acts exactly as my needs require is the objective foundation of all prayer and contemplation." In other words, the eyes of faith take us into the heart of God, even in the midst of turmoil, suffering and fear.

Simply praising God in the midst of turmoil takes our eyes off the problems and places them on God who provides. I repeat: "My knowledge that God knows, cares, and acts exactly as my needs require is the objective foundation of all prayer and contemplation."

Frequently, when everything I had expected to happen doesn't happen, and everything I had hoped would not happen, happens, I simply say: "Lord, I hope you are having fun because I am not!" With that comes an incredible peace.

When I am faced with a situation that is totally beyond me, I try to remain quiet inside and simply say: "Lord, I do not have an answer for this problem. However, I know You are the answer, and I will wait until You reveal to me what You want me to do." That gets me out of the way. If He gives me an answer, that is fine. If He doesn't give me an answer, I am totally at peace. Embracing the present moment is God's will for me. 

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