13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Thoughts on the First Readings –Joe Frankenfield
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.
“Life has to make sense to people. If they can’t find the sense, they’ll make it up.” A psychology professor said that years ago. I often recall it because it’s proven true. And it causes problems.
It’s always struck me as strange that religious folks for whom mystery is a central element of faith find a need to explain everything. Often, if they can’t find any other explanation, God will do as the last ditch answer.
Why did my friend have to die? Why did my fiancé have to run off with his secretary? Why did I get through the war without a scratch? What wonderful thing brought you into my life? Why is the earth just the right distance from the Sun for us to live on it? I’ve heard countless answers to questions like these that begin, “Well, God . . . .”
The trouble is that making God responsible for things we don’t understand inevitably causes problems down the road. When we pretend to possess answers that we don’t and use God’s name to do it, we set up contradictions. I once heard a minister explain a young son’s death to his parents by saying that God always takes the best when they’re young. “God’s pretty much of a selfish (so and so) then, isn’t he,” responded the angry father. Though I felt sorry for the publically embarrassed minister, the parent was absolutely right and I couldn’t blame him for lashing out. I have no idea is always better than making something up.
Parents sometimes fear that admitting to not understanding God will lead their children to have religious doubts. From talking to many college students I’ve learned that answers that make God look good but don’t ultimately square with experience cause much more doubt. They make religion look desperate and dishonest. Many of young people find current Church authority guilty of precisely that because they loudly assert explanations that make no sense and when they’re challenged, they simply assert more loudly.
I can’t explain why life is as it is. But I believe in a loving God anyway because . . . is an answer that demonstrates integrity as well as the strength of faith to honestly face our ignorance. It’s more than okay. It’s excellent.