Sunday, 9 August 2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. First read John 6: 41-51

A strange paradox presents itself today - that of the nearness and farness of God.  How can Jesus be from Heaven - a place which we are certain is infinitely distant - when we know He comes from Nazareth, which is little more than a day's walk from Capernaum? We can forgive the people for grumbling about Jesus' mysterious words; their Scriptures resound with hymns to the grandeur of God, His immensity and His towering perfections, but these are interspersed with passages of touching delicacy: sonnets to His tender intimacy with those He calls His people.  It is not easy to think these two together.

God is distant from us in power, goodness, holiness and wisdom: as far as East is from West, as far as the Heavens are above the Earth.  He is close to us in friendship, love, attention and care: closer than our bodies are to our souls - every hair on your head has been counted.

Now, God is perfectly simple, which is why we find Him so mysterious.  He is unity, and is therefore not content for those He loves (that is, you and me) to remain so far away from Him in nature.  He seeks to draw us to Him in His wisdom, holiness, goodness and, yes, even power - has He not invited you to move mountains?

In order to draw us to Himself in His perfections, He placed all of His fulness where we could reach it, in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.  By dying and rising, Jesus bridged the gap between sinful, condemned humanity and the God Who is life itself, being at the same time the One Who suffered the death imposed as punishment for all sin and the One Who lives eternally by His own power.

Having thus made human nature in some way compatible with the divine nature, the Father draws us to the Lord Jesus in order that we may partake of His co-naturality, and it has pleased Him to do this in a way which is perfectly adapted to human beings: He gives Himself as bread.

When we eat, we extract nutrients from our food which are then built into our body; they truly become part of us.  God became Man so that He could become bread, in order that He might become, in a frighteningly real sense, every man, woman and child.  He shares our nature so that we might share His.

God is not afraid to be close to us.  Because He condescends to love us, He draws us to the Lord in His perfections so that our joy may be complete.  The problem lies in the other direction.  We hold back from God, we try to hold Him at arm's length, to do the bare minimum to keep Him happy and therefore out of the way.  There are all sorts of reasons for this.

It may be that you are conscious of your own sins and, having grown up with a false image of God - a god who is cold and unforgiving, or only forgiving to a certain extent, or only for certain kinds of people - you give up on God, thinking yourself beyond redemption. This is called despair, and despair is a sin, which means it is based on a lie and is always misguided.

God will never run out of mercy.

It may be that you think you are okay by yourself, living a good life and doing your best - surely that will be enough in the end? No.  This is called pride, and pride is a sin too.  There is no true goodness apart from God and nobody will ever advance along the road of perfection far enough that they do not need Him, for He is the road, and the destination - the way, the truth and the life.

Perhaps you know you need Him but your attachment to sin is still so strong that you are afraid of what you might lose if you let God be your God - as Saint Augustine prayed, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!" The unknown is undeniably scary, but do not be afraid.  Throw it away, whatever it is that holds you back, and cast out into the deep with God.  Whatever the reason, do not be afraid to let God draw you into deepest intimacy. Dare to trust and you will certainly not be disappointed.  Nobody ever lost anything who gained God, for when you have God you have everything, and have forever to enjoy it.

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