The Struggle to Hold onto God

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Sometimes it seems we don’t know how to think about God. Humanity’s default position is to act like God doesn’t exist. So when times get tough we seek whatever security our world can offer. The prophet Isaiah voiced Godly frustration with how we behave when our backs are against the wall (Is 22:19-23):

On that day the Lord, the GOD of hosts, called for weeping and mourning, for shaving the head and wearing sackcloth. But look! Instead, there was celebration and joy. … “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

Our culture seems to live that quote from Isaiah, just as The Holy Spirit might have given life to this quote through Benjamin Franklin:

“Those who would give up their liberty to purchase a little temporary security deserve neither Liberty nor Security.”

So allow me to hijack that quote and bend it further to suit the purposes of this Sunday’s readings about humanity’s confusion concerning God:

Those who ignore God’s presence in times of peace deprive themselves of God’s security in times of conflict.

Or, we also tend to keep faith in our back pocket, ready to be pulled out in times of danger—just as a vampire hunter wields a cross against Dracula. Even among the faithful military, whose job is our country’s defense, worship during peace time seems to match the civilian pew population: both are way down.

At a presentation to the First Friday Club of Cleveland last month, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA and president of the USCCB offered his interpretation of this phenomenon:

“When I came to the archdiocese of Military Service we were at war and there was great interest in faith,” he said. “The RCIA saw all kinds of conversions happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now if you go to a military chapel, and most of the people I see in my assignment are between 18 and 38, you don’t see a huge representation of that population. One of my interests is to grow opportunities to evangelize and to invite young Catholics to practice their faith.”

He cited two initiatives: “Reach More,” a small catholic community organized to work with young Catholics in the military as they transfer between assignments, and Team St. Paul, which trains laypeople and assigns them to military installations to attract young Catholics to the life of the church.

Quite a challenge, considering the strength required to keep the faith once given it. St. Paul knew that challenge only too well, but he also knew the rewards of putting in the effort:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? (Rom 11:33-36)

This Sunday’s gospel reading (Mt 16:13-20) answers that question as we witness Jesus recruiting the first leader of his fledgling church on earth:

“Who do you say that I am?” he asks Simon Peter, who replies:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus says to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

Keeping that faith requires us to hold it—through good times and bad. That way we can enjoy both the liberty and security of knowing God.

–Tom Andel

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