My Father Told Me

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I was not a terrific student in school. One of the subjects I disliked more than others was algebra. I get sweaty palms thinking about trying to solve those problems and taking those tests and quizzes! My Dad knew this and so he would tell me, “Jim, do your best and God will take care of the rest”. This seemed like a good piece of advice and one that could be freeing – in a way. Problem was, I had to figure out exactly, what was my BEST. As I thought about this formula, it came to me that if I did not succeed in algebra (or whatever else I was trying to do or master) it must mean that I didn’t do my best and, therefore, God was not pitching in to take care of “the rest”. Well, I got to the other side of algebra and years passed. Yet there was for some time a lingering residue about “doing my best” and God’s proportional response. In time, I came to believe the formula my loving Dad gave me was flawed. God’s kindness, mercy and love are not ever proportional and / or conditional on my performance, because God is Love and God always wants what’s best for us. Re-visiting my Dad’s formula holds a lesson for all of us as we consider the successes and setbacks of our lives.
Truth is, sometimes we try our very best and fall flat on our faces and at other times, we succeed. There are times when success or failure is independent of our efforts and depends on many other variables. God is not managing how the game is playing out. Rather God is continuously present in every moment of every day, a loving constant in our lives, accompanying us through it all. We choose whether or not to be present to God. In Judaism, the presence of God to the Jews was understood as the Covenant God established through Abraham. Down through the ages, God exhorted the Israelites to be faithful to this Covenant relationship of love and fidelity. Jesus, the human face of God, completes and fulfills that ancient Covenant and establishes the New Covenant in and through His own life, death, resurrection and promise to be with us always. In Baptism, we are brought into a profound relationship with Jesus. At God’s ongoing initiative, we are invited into an intimacy with Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Accepting that invitation opens us to the world of the God Who is Love and who directly and through a community of earthly players supports us through the vicissitudes of life. There are those who intellectually accept the truth that God is Love, yet believe somehow that Love is not freely and unconditionally for them. They believe and promote the notion of my Dad’s formula: God’s Love for me is proportional to my personal behavior and performance. That is not true! No one can change God Who is Love and Who constantly beckons us to receive that Love. As the Latin saying goes, ʺVocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderitʺ – ʺInvoked or not invoked, God is present.” We need only choose to be present to God. It behooves us to do our best in all we undertake, knowing our best may vary depending on certain life circumstances and is not decided by God. How blessed are we to have a God who is present to us always and graces our lives each day. Accept this Truth of God who is Love, and be filled with the graces of this relationship like no other.

Fr. Ronan