I still remember being scared by this gospel when I was a child. It was the same kind of fear that I had going to school without my homework or seeing my parents drive up to the house when I hadn’t done the jobs that they’d left for me. As I became an adult, I put most of those fears behind me with the thought that I could only do what I could do and, as long as I was trying my best, God would understand and be patient.
Years later I came to realize that the issue was neither God’s understanding nor God’s patience. It was our freedom. I had been raised to have a perpetual child-parent relationship with God: God would tell me what to do and I would decide whether or not to do it. On that decision depended my status as either obedient or disobedient with its consequences. It took quite a while for me to understand my relationship with God as a friendship with a shared and deeply desired goal. God wants to give us an existence of boundless beauty and joy. And we, as we become aware of God’s intention, want to see it realized.
Still, a key aspect of the gift is our freedom. We’re free to decide whether and how whole-heartedly to cooperate with God’s gift. The price of not cooperating is that we delay or wound the world God wants to give. That’s not a punishment but the natural result ignoring or resisting the process of creation.
As I’m writing this, the Philippine people are struggling to rise from the destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan. Their president, Benigno di Aquino III, estimates that 2,500 residents may have been killed.
Recent cuts to unemployment compensation, food stamps, rent subsidies, and Head Start have made it more difficult than usual for poor people to survive and live with dignity in our country.
There’s nowhere that God says, “Help the people of the Philippines and restore cuts to the poverty programs.” God, however, does say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It takes us all a while to realize that we’re free adult friends of God with a chance to build something wonderful together – not children pleasing our parents.