Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trusting God with the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF LENT, March 18, 2018:

A man was standing on the edge of a cliff admiring the beautiful scenery. Suddenly, without warning, the ground beneath his feet broke away and he began to fall. In desperation he grabbed a small branch and held on with all his might as he hung over the edge. The rocky ground was hundreds of feet below his dangling legs. He began to yell, “Is there anyone up there! Help me!” Suddenly the man heard a loud voice that said, “This is God. I will help you. Put all your faith and trust in me and I will take you safely to the top. All you have to do is let go.” The man paused for a moment, looked intently at the ground far below and then back to the heavens and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Letting go and fully trusting in God is one of the most difficult things we’ll ever face in our spiritual journey. But, it is also one of the most necessary parts of truly living as people of faith. Jesus tells us as much in today’s Gospel passage, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” Jesus asks us to trust fully in Him – not to trust in ourselves or our own ability – but to trust that His way is the right way – even when we can’t see the bigger picture; even when we don’t know the outcome. He simply asks us to trust and to follow. It may be the most difficult thing we are asked to do – simply trust.

There is a story about an emperor trying to choose his successor. He decided he would choose from among the children in his kingdom. Calling them together he said, “I am going to give each one of you a very special seed today. Plant it and care for it and return in one year with what you have grown. I will then judge and the one I choose will be the next emperor!” One boy, Jack, went home and excitedly told his mother what had happened. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. Weeks and even months went by, and Jack faithfully cared for his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Finally the year went by and everyone brought what they had grown back to the emperor. When Jack arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes. But still all he had was an empty pot. He put it on the floor and the other kids laughed at him. When the emperor arrived, he said, “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown.” Then he spotted Jack at the back of the room with his empty pot. He called him to the front and asked his name. He looked at the boy, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Jack!” Jack was stunned. He couldn't even grow a seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which could not grow. All of you, except Jack, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jack was the only one who trusted to do what I asked no matter what, and so he will be the new emperor!”

Jack trusted even when it seemed difficult; even when it felt like his actions were not accomplishing anything; even when he felt like he was failing. How many times in our own lives are we unwilling to offer pure and honest trust and instead try and change things ourselves, without God’s help. We try and force the outcome that we want and ignore God’s bigger plan because we can’t see it in the moment. Scripture shows us time and time again, that when we fail to trust in God, things don’t go our way. Just think of Abraham who didn’t trust God’s promise to him and his wife Sarah, just think of Jonah who didn’t trust God’s mercy for the people of Nineveh, just think of Thomas who didn’t trust Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead, Jack couldn’t understand what was wrong with his seed, yet he didn’t change his course; he continued to trust and for that he was rewarded. How much more so for those who trust and follow God.

So today, place all your cares on the Lord. Cry out to Him with all the challenges that burden your heart. Share all your hopes and dreams with God. And, then simply trust that all will work out for the good; that all will work according to God’s plan. “The Father will honor whoever serves me… And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

May the Lord give you peace.

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