FAITH IN THE UNFOLDING OF GOD’S PLAN IN OUR LIVES
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 7:4-5;12-14,16; ROM 4:13;16-18,22; MT 1:16,18-21,24 OR LK 2:41-51]
Many of us live in anxiety and fear of tomorrow. We worry about our job, our health and our loved ones. We worry about the education of our children, whether they will do well in their studies. We are always worried that we do not have enough money to sustain us and our loved ones. Such fears and concerns are normal and understandable. But when we look at our life many years down the road, we would come to realize that most of these fears are quite unnecessary. In fact, our health would have been better, our lives more joyful and happier had we not been so anxious. Anxiety causes us to have high blood pressure and hypertension, and sometimes insomnia. Worse still, it leads us to vices, like gambling, cheating and drinking.
This is because we trust only in ourselves. Weaklings as we are, our lives are always fragile. We cannot guarantee or predict what will happen tomorrow. We are not in full control of our lives. But we want to be in charge. We do not want to live in faith. Because we take things into our own hands instead of relying on God’s grace, we often end up messing the plans of God as Abraham did when he was impatient waiting for the promised son. He did not live by faith and took Hagar a slave to conceive a son for him. This lack of trust in God’s plan caused more problems for humanity later. This is also true for ourselves.
What we need is to have faith in God’s fidelity to us. All the three readings unveil to us the marvellous and irrevocable plan of God. No matter what we human beings do to contradict the plan of God, His plan would unfold all the same. God is faithful to His promises. This is the centrality of today’s scripture readings so beautifully expressed by the psalmist. “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth. Of this I am sure, that your love lasts forever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I will establish your dynasty forever and set up your throne through all ages.”
We see first and foremost God’s fidelity to Abraham when He called him to move out of his comfort zone of Ur, the land of the Chaldeans, and to journey to an unknown land that God would show Him. There was no guarantee but it was just a promise that he would be “the father of many nations” and “his descendants will be as many as the stars.” Based on that promise, he set out to a foreign land fraught with dangers from weather and enemies. Certainly, Abraham would have wondered many times when the promise of God would be fulfilled. In truth, he did not see it in his life time completely, except for the birth of Isaac. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised.” On hindsight, we see that God fulfilled His promises beyond our imagination. He is the Father of faith and hence of many generations. Through him, the great religions were born, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We are all his children in faith.
In the first reading, we see the promise of a nation fulfilled. Then the Davidic dynasty was established. Under the reign of King David, the nation flourished. All the Twelve tribes were united under one Israel. But God went further in promising King David that his kingdom would last forever. Through the prophet Nathan, God said, “I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established forever.”
When David heard these words, we can be sure that he did not fully grasp the meaning. At most, he would have thought that his son and descendants would continue to perpetuate the dynasty he had started. Even that is not realistic. Did he really believe that his kingdom will last forever when history has shown that kingdoms rise and fall regardless how powerful and great they are? Even great powers like Assyria, Babylon and Persia; Greece and Rome in the ancient days had fallen. In our times, countries like Spain, Portugal and Britain were once powerful countries, but their influence is much less today. All earthly kingdoms have come and gone.
Yet, we see once again the fidelity of God to His plan for humanity. God is faithful to His promises. What we cannot conceive, God could do. God had planned that His Son would come from the line of David and establish forever the sovereignty of God. From hindsight, the prophecy of Nathan now makes sense, when God said to David, “It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure forever. I will be a father to him and he a son to me.” Although it was true that the king in the Old Testament was considered a son of God, yet the full understanding of the Fatherhood of God is realized only with the birth of Christ, His son. When Christ was on earth, His message was simply the kingdom of God. Christ, by His death and resurrection, established the kingdom of the Father forever and ever.
What does it mean for us when we celebrate the feast of St Joseph? We must imitate him in his receptivity to the plan of God. The idea of him being a foster father was never in the mind of Joseph. All he wanted was a normal family. He was certainly like the rest of us. But God had other plans for him. God said to him, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.” When God revealed His plan to Joseph, he could have revolted or insisted on going his own way. He could have said, “No, I want to have a normal married life.” But he was receptive and obedient to God’s will.
How many of us are receptive to the unexpected changes in our life and adapt accordingly? Many of us are afraid of change. We want the comfortable and secure life we are used to having. Whether at work, at home or in church, we resist change. We want to do things the same old ways but at the same time, we give lip service to progress. When called upon the Lord to undertake certain tasks and responsibilities, we shy away because it means changing the routine and status quo. How many of us would be like Joseph, who upon hearing the voice of God, woke up and took the risk of accepting Mary to be his wife? Many of us do not live a fruitful and meaningful life because we are like a frog that will not come out of our well. We must learn to adapt and take risks in responding to the call of God and the unimaginable will happen.
Secondly, we are called to imitate the faith of Joseph in cooperating with God’s plan. “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.”. We can be sure that he could not understand how Mary could conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. It seemed too farfetched. He would also have wondered what all these would entail. But he trusted in the Lord. He believed that God would be faithful to His promise. This is the same faith of Abraham. We might never know exactly how the plan of God would evolve. What is important is that like Joseph, our task is to cooperate with the plan of God. We need to walk by faith, not by sight. God in His own time will bring about the maturity of His plan for us. This was the case of Abraham as St Paul wrote, “I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.” We must do all we can whilst leaving God to determine how events will unfold. Faith does not mean doing nothing; it requires us to cooperate with Him.
Thirdly, having faith in God means to live in hope. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him’.” Without hope, we will give up. But hope must be sustained by faith. If we continue to live on in spite of the trials and difficulties facing us, it is because we have hope that we will be able to overcome them.
Conversely, only faith can help us to persevere in hope. This is what St Paul tells us. “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.” Truly, “what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the Father of all of us.” In this way, the promise of God to unfold His plans in our lives will also be realized in any one of us who has faith like our forefathers. Let us therefore walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
So today, as we celebrate the feast of St Joseph, let us in faith walk confidently in the ways of the Lord. Let us not be too worried about the future. We too pray with the psalmist, “You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.” And God assures us, “I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.” He is reliable and although things may not work out the way we think, we can be sure that it will work out in ways beyond our imagination. With St Paul we say, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
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