Sunday, March 29, 2020

2020/03/29 - God is Only this Big

As humans, it's normal for us to put God into a box.... Because in our minds, God is only this big (make a visual box in my hands).  Obviously, God has limitations - I mean - he if He was a good God, surely he would have stopped the virus by now.  Heck, If he was a good God, the virus never would have happened - and all those people wouldn't have died!  Obviously, God has limitations, because God is only this big.

Is that what we believe?  Our readings help us get a different perspective.

In the first reading, the Israelites had been exiled to Babylon - kicked out of their land - and for the Israelites - God was only this big - As with most ancient religions, they believed that God was tied to the LAND of Israel and specifically to the Temple in Jerusalem.  So, to be exiled from their land was to be hopelessly far away from God - because - God is in a box - God has limitations.  But Ezekiel has a vision - we don't hear about the first part of it in our text today, but it's an interesting hook to our topic - He had a vision of the Presence of God - or the Glory of God - with wheels on it - moving around from place to place.  The meaning of the vision is that God's glory is NOT tied to the land - He is present with His people WHEREVER they are - even in Babylon!  God had NOT left them.  God was NOT limited.

Then we come to the prophecy in our first reading - "I will open your graves!  I will bring you back to your homeland!"  What a great promise - sealed with an oath from God - "I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord".  I would imagine for the Israelites in exile this would seem unimaginable... far-fetched... they were SO FAR removed from their homeland that even God could not get them was a hopeless situation... because to them God was only this big.    But God revealed His glory by fulfilling that promise!  Some of them were still alive when they were finally allowed to go home.  It blew the lid off their box - our God is even more powerful than we gave Him credit for!

Which brings us to the Gospel - this is Jesus' direct attack on this idea that God has limitations.  The key line, I think, is when He says that Lazarus' death was "so that the Glory of God may be revealed".    We hear it over and over in the reading how the disciples and then Martha and Mary don't even THINK that Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead.  I don't think it even crossed their minds!  They had faith that he could have SAVED Lazarus from dying, but hey - even Jesus has his limitations -death is beyond him.  Martha might have been wise enough to think that maybe Jesus could resurrect Lazarus right after he died... since in their custom, you weren't legally dead until the third day - you know, Once a body has been dead for more than 3 days, it starts to decay - there ain't no bringing him back now - it's hopeless.  It's THAT hopelessness that Jesus steps into - showing that God is God EVEN over death.  He wants to blow the lid off of the box

As we continue our quarantine, we are like the Israelites - kinda in our own Exile - taken away from the Sacraments at Church.  Could this be a way for God to remind us that - God's glory is on wheels!  YES - Jesus IS substantially present in our Tabernacles and in the Eucharist we receive and we all Long to come back to the Sacrament - but even though we can't come to Church, God is with us!  You know this - just look around - even amidst all the seeming craziness and hopelessness, God's glory is being revealed in each of our lives.  If we don't see it, we're missing out.

God is Love... so if we want to see God's glory, look for the Love in our lives.  If we find a place where there IS not love, then WE should take love into that situation- and THEN God's glory is revealed through us!  We can show love to our neighbors by checking in on them - share extra food or toilet paper with somebody we know is struggling, or pick up sticks in the yard for our elderly neighbor after the storms - spend our time praying for the World, which is in so desperate need of prayer - THAT is when WE reveal the Glory of God.

Jesus came to show us that God's love is not limited - God is not 'this' big (box) - but Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross to show us that God is bigger even than this:  (cruciform).

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