Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has ready for those who love him": Giving God the Reins of our Lives (Reflections on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 5:1-11)

Two families, both visited by unspeakable tragedy – a friend of mine had the opportunity to minister to them in their time of grief and to walk with them as they tried to cope with the terrible loss, each family losing a child, one to illness, the other to an accident. Both families at first tried their best to pull together, to support one another, to console and  pray for each other; and the entire parish community did its best to surround them with love and care.

Sadly, their stories ended differently. One family, after some time, broke up, husband and wife, simply unable to cope with the loss. They began blaming one another and, perhaps blaming God for their loss, simply dropped out of their parish community which had gathered around them in their time of suffering.

The other family did its very best to stick together, husband and wife supported one another, found comfort and consolation in the love and care their church community continued to show them, and trusted that God had not abandoned them, but still had them in his hands. They took care of their surviving child, and though with much sorrow and pain, slowly rebuilt their family.

Life seems relatively easy when we’re in control, when everything appears to be going well. Every so often though, things change, and we do lose control. We get disappointed, and these disappointments range from the very small to the very big. When these things happen, when life visits us with difficulty, suffering and pain, there are always two possible responses: to become bitter and lose faith and trust, in God and in ourselves, or to trust God all the more and let him take the driver’s seat, giving him full control of the direction of our lives.

Peter and his fellow fishermen—hadn’t got a catch the entire night, then Jesus comes along making a suggestion. "Put out into deep water, and lower your nets for a catch", he tells them. Why should Peter listen? There were two things going against listening to Jesus’ suggestion. First, Jesus was no fisherman. He was a carpenter. What would a carpenter know about fishing? Second, Peter had already told Jesus that they had been fishing all night with no success.

And yet Peter chose to listen to Jesus and put his trust in him, even if he wasn’t himself too sure. "Master, we have worked all night, and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets". In the end, his trust paid off. They caught a lot of fish, almost breaking their nets.

God cannot show us great and amazing things, He wouldn’t be able to let us experience the great adventure that is life, to its fullness if we insist on being in the driver’s seat and controlling everything: ourselves, other people, even God himself.

But that’s not always easy to do. Control gives us a sense of security. We know what we want, we know how to get it. The opposite of trust is not the lack of trust. The opposite of trust and its enemy is fear. We refuse to “let go” because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of failing; we’re afraid that we might not make it. We’re afraid that our effort might not be enough. In fact, we’re sometimes even afraid that God’s effort will not be enough.

And that’s perfectly understandable. When Moses came to God asking him to give the water to Israelites who were wandering in the desert, God told Moses to strike the rock once and water will flow. But Moses was so afraid that he might fail, that the people will revolt, that even God might fail, and so what does he do? He strikes the rock twice. Just to make sure. And God, of course, didn’t like that one bit. It showed Moses’ lack of trust and faith in God.

Can we give up control, and let God be in the driver’s seat of our lives? It can be scary, because like Moses we sometimes think that even God might fail. And that’s probably not a bad thing altogether. The thing is, unless we can become like Peter, and put our trust in God completely, trust that God knows what he’s doing, even if we feel doubtful sometimes, we will never really know what great and amazing things God has in store for us.

Saint Paul in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians tells us: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has ready for those who love him”. Unless we “let go”, and “let God” be in control of our lives, we will find ourselves again and again, frustrated, disappointed. And we will never experience that great adventure of life that God has in store for us.

Let go then. Let God be in control. There is nothing to fear.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)