At my church, we host small Eucharistic celebrations (usually followed by potluck meals) during the week. These intra-congregational gatherings follow a slightly altered version of the Western rite. Being involved with this has been very formative for me over the last few years. Around three years ago, (after approval by the elders) I stepped into the presider rotation. This has afforded me an opportunity to write many short homilies. These are simple reflections on the texts of the day that point us to the Table. I will occasionally post these here. And I will probably post some of the old ones that I have written. This was the homily for today.
Thursday of the Sixth week in Ordinary Time
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Isaiah tells us that the Lord says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”
This would seem to be a pretty basic theological affirmation: That the Creator does not think as the creature. That the one who, as Origen says, “contains but is not contained,” cannot be domesticated and used for our own ends. And yet, it does not take long to begin listing examples of people who do just that in our own day. Politicians and candidates of every stripe who claim that God’s stamp of approval falls on their party. Economists and social commentators who claim systems based on God’s truth. Perhaps we should even add theologians and pastors. The examples abound of people who are not open to the surprise of God’s gracious word because they know in advance what God thinks and supports.
We see this in our texts today. The community to which James is writing is convinced that those who are materially endowed are deserving of special favors. It seems like a reasonable practice. So reasonable, indeed, that it has continued right down through the centuries into our own day. But James reminds us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are utterly foreign to us. Indeed, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom?”
Likewise, in our Gospel passage, we are confronted by the unsettling notion that even when we know something right about God, we still can get it wrong. For right after Peter gives the Good confession “You are the Christ,” he gives the bad confession, rebuking Jesus for embracing suffering. And Jesus scolds Peter, “You are not thinking as God does, but at human beings do.”
We need this reminder just as much as Peter did. We, who through are familiarity with God can cease to be surprised, can risk confusing our petty preferences and agendas for God’s. How do we guard against the mistakes of domesticating God? One way is by coming to this table. Here, we gather to receive a true word from the Lord—a word utterly alien to human speech, a word that cannot be contained or silenced, but only received and offered.
The Creator’s Yes to his creation.
Let us divest ourselves of false notions of God and receive this true word.