Monday of the 4th Week of Lent
“So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!”
It is usually easy to take someone familiar for granted. Whether it be a long time friend, family or relative. It is as the gospel reading tells us today: For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his native place. This was true of the Galileans who welcomed Jesus back to their town. Although the word ‘welcome’ is used, scripture commentaries point out that this treatment was premised upon the fact that they expected him to perform more miracles, as a mere miracle-worker or medicine man might.
Probably their welcome was tinged with curiosity, a dash of cynicism, a dab of incredulity — thinking, ‘Let’s see now… What else is this carpenter’s son capable of?’
That is why Jesus admonishes the royal official in such a public manner: “So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!” He was also addressing the crowd who had gathered in the marketplace.
In truth, I sometimes ponder and try to contextualize the things happening to me in the larger scheme of God’s plan: “I wonder what might be the miracle that God is trying to accomplish here…?” I do this in order that I might encourage myself to trust God despite the ambiguity and uncertainty of a situation I find myself in. It is my instinctive practice of sense-making, which, inherently is not a sin…
Yet, I have come to realise that this subconscious practice of trying to divine God’s plan is fundamentally flawed and vulnerable to temptations. I am like the Galileans who are trying to create a story out of the ‘show’ they are watching. This is in fact a spectatorship of faith, not an authentic living in faith. It can be dangerous to dwell in these speculations about what miracles can come out of crisis, before deciding that I will put my faith in God. Satan dwells in this nebulous territory. The evil one, knowing our weaknesses, will ensnare our thoughts with various ‘What if’s, starting from the hopeful, but usually ending with the doubtful scenarios.
Why? Simply because he knows that it is easier to lead us to despair by first dishing us hope and grandeur! Since Satan already did it to Jesus in the desert — “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down… He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will raise you up…” (Mt 4:6) — he certainly has similar tricks up his sleeve for us! We will first be brought to the most magnificent scenarios, and if we aren’t careful, a pernicious seed of doubt will be planted to sway our trust in God’s goodness.
Since late last year, I have been deliberating over a decision. Although knowing what would really bring me life, I have yet to act on it. Instead I have stood frozen to the ground afraid to walk off confidently like the royal official upon hearing Jesus’ response: “Go home; your son will live.”
My decision involves a huge sacrifice. One that I have been praying and discerning over for a long time. I have weighed all my baskets in various configurations and still come up with the same calculation that my sacrifices are unlikely to outweigh the benefits. Still, I am stuck.
Why? I confess I am like the Galileans in my concern for ‘how things might turn out’ rather than actually placing my faith in the person of Christ. I have been mistakenly fixated on speculating about the work and plan that God has, rather than focusing my vision on Him alone.
To follow Him.
To pay heed to the exact invitation and direction He has given me.
To love the person for who He is, and not what He can do for me.
I had prayed for the grace of clarity, courage, conviction… and I now realize that I had received them all.
Yet I hesitated to respond by consecrating my will to God. The royal official entrusted Jesus with his desperate plea…and accepted in simple faith, the spoken healing Jesus gave. The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
How often do we sacrifice our pointless human anxieties at the altar, to leave them there as an offering of faith and trust in God? To let go. Then right away, go about doing the very thing we are asked to do? May we reflect on our hesitations and willingness this Lent, and repent quickly. Is there something which you are still holding back from God? Is there something that Jesus is inviting you to place at the altar as a burnt offering?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me not to take you and your faithfulness for granted. Help me to be authentic in seeking to follow you. Grant me the grace to want to accept your invitation.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Jesus’ merciful passion and relentless, passionate pursuit despite moments of our lukewarm love and half-hearted prayers.
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