God longs to give us his greatest gift

| Deacon Bryce Evans | July 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

“We would sooner grow weary of receiving God’s gifts than he would grow weary of bestowing them upon us.”

When  I first encountered these words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I found them difficult to believe. Creatures, after all, deserve nothing from God. And sinners deserve only punishment. How then could God justify such lavishness?

Abraham thus shows a reasonable caution in questioning the Lord in our first reading for July 24. He treads carefully, like a child concerned not to enrage an angry father.

Yet something gives him confidence to pursue his bold line of investigation: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were 50 innocent people in the city. Would you spare it? . . . 40 . . . 30 . . . 20 . . . 10?” He dares not proceed any further. This is enough to show God’s forbearance. It would be presumptuous to ask anything more; out of place to press the question to its logical conclusion, though our hearts might whisper it: “Would you spare the city even for the sake of five innocent people? . . . What about one?”

Surely not. This is out of the question. Mercy must have its limits if justice is not to be undone. God cannot simply spare the whole for the sake of one innocent. This would fly in the face of all proportion. And even if God were so unreasonably generous, it would make no difference. If Sodom and Gomorrah are any indication, there is no such innocent person to spare us anyway. “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). If God wished to spare us, he would have to supply the just man himself. But this would be preposterous.

And yet, God does precisely this. He supplies the innocent man for us, by sending his son. As Sunday’s second reading states: “Even when you were dead in transgressions . . . he brought you to life along with him . . . obliterating the bond against us . . . nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14). Jesus entered into such solidarity with us that he allowed himself to be counted a sinner on the cross so that we could be made just, being spared by his innocence.

So marvelously does God’s mercy outstrip every human thought.

It is this that allows the saints their audacious expectations. If God has gone so far for us, what can we not rightly expect. “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rom 8:32). This also accounts for Jesus’ words in Sunday’s Gospel: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find . . . For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds . . .” (Lk 11:9-10). If we ask with the confidence of children, God will be sure to give us the finest gifts.

If we wish to honor God, then we can do no better than to ask him for outrageous gifts. Not a Ferrari or a jet, but rather for something even more audacious: that we might become saints. That is the greatest gift possible, and he longs to give it, if only we would ask him with sincerity and faith.

Deacon Evans is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, and his home parish is St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran.


Sunday, July 24
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings

  • Gn 18:20-32
  • Col 2:12-14
  • Lk 11:1-13

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Category: Sunday Scriptures