This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Sept. 18, 2014:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” This is at least the third time God alludes to this in the Bible–that His mind doesn’t work the same way ours do–the other two (that I know of) being when Jesus reprimands Peter for trying to correct Him about His Passion and Death (see Mt 16:23), and when God warns Samuel to “not judge from [Eliab’s] appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sm 16:7).
We should be ever thankful that the Lord’s ways are not our own; for as it also says in today’s Responsorial Psalm, “The LORD is just in all his ways and holy in all his works.” This is quite different from how we are so much of the time–between our selfishness, our sinfulness, and our injustices against God and neighbor. If God were like that, we’d be doomed!
God, however, is wiser than that. Perfect justice and holiness are facets of His personality. They are also facets of Heaven; therefore, it only makes sense that things which are not just or holy would have no place in Heaven. They simply couldn‘t reside there.
People often think that God has too many rules. They think that He’s too “picky,” that He’s unjust, and that He selfishly demands far too much out of His people. (One person who thinks essentially this way–that God’s some sort of megalomaniac–is the atheist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion. What Dawkins needs to understand is that, before he can reasonably attack the deeper theological aspects of God, he would need to start by accepting that God exists in the first place; if he hasn’t even gotten that far yet, then he can’t possibly hope to comprehend God’s inner workings, much less attempt to exercise judgment upon them.)
In order to say that about God, people like Richard Dawkins have to lower Him to our own level of human neediness; but the reality is that–unlike mankind–God is perfect in and of Himself. He doesn’t need mankind to do anything for Him, nor does He wish them to do anything exclusively for His gain. After all, what could He gain from us?
As I said, God does not need us; but He does desire us. It is not, however, for His gain; rather, it is for ours. We do need Him. He desires us, so that we might live in peaceful communion with Him–both in this life and the next. He has even shown us the Way through which we may achieve that communion.
“Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him’” (Jn 14:6-7). Jesus is the Way to that communion of peace; His path–the path of holiness–is that which we must strive to follow.
It was never God’s will for us to sin. He knew we would, of course, but He never gave us any reason to disobey that first command to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We can see from that incident just why God gives us commands in the first place: to keep us out of trouble.
As I said before, unholiness and injustice simply have no place in Heaven. That is why God is so “demanding” of us; He wishes for us to be holy and just, so that we will have a place in His Eternal Kingdom. He didn’t ask the Israelites to offer sacrifices because He wanted to covet their livestock; He doesn’t ask Christians to obey His laws so He can have the perverted pleasure of controlling our minds; He does it so that we will stay on the course of true–and, eventually, eternal–spiritual joy.
His selfless concern for us should be fairly obvious; otherwise, why would He send His begotten, consubstantial Son to die for our sake? “For our sake,” because the only way for us to be able to enter Heaven was for justice to be done for our sins; God came to us as one of our own (yet also as Himself), so that such justice could indeed be done–for us, but to Him (because there’s no way we could do it for ourselves). Jesus’s Passion forgives human sin in itself, making it possible for mankind to enter Heaven in the first place; whereas repentance, reparation, and obedience to God are up to each of us individually.
Baptism is another great leap along the path of holiness; it actually has a principal quite similar to what we heard in today’s Gospel, in the parable about those who started work later on in the day being paid just as much as those who started in the morning. When we are Baptized, our sins are completely erased–no matter how many of them we’ve committed, or for how long we’ve been committing them. A man who gave himself to Christ through Baptism at age ninety would have his sins forgiven as completely as would a baptized infant.
Rather than laying down a set of cold rules as some may believe, God has given us a way out from our transgressions. He loves us all–personally; that’s why He’s so willing to forgive us time and time again for our sins, if only we will repent and try to make reparation (as it says in the first reading, “Let the scoundrel forsake his ways, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving”). He even gives the grace of Purgatory, for those who die, but need more purification before they can live in His Kingdom. God has no intention of sending a single one of us to Hell…rather, He intends to save us from both our sins and ourselves–in other words, He intends to stop us from sending ourselves to Hell.
He has shown us the Way through the teachings and virtues of the Word, the Word Made Flesh, and the Magisterium. He has opened the door to Heaven through Jesus’s Passion and Death, and is beckoning to us to enter it. It is up to us to try to purify ourselves through His graces, and act in accordance with His holy will–essentially, so that we will not veer off course and run into the doorframe instead of passing through into eternal life. Do not fall for what appears to be a much larger door situated around the smaller one; the Devil painted a extraordinarily appealing, wide door on the wall around the real one, in the hopes that we would run into it and be stuck outside like him.
“And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.”–Jesus (Jn 12:47-48)
“Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”–Jesus (Mt 7:13-14)
by Cameron Daly