Thursday, February 17, 2005

Snacking on the word: Matthew 7:9-10 (LMC)
Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? At the school Mass (grades 2-5) today, this passage struck me. I thought of "man teasing," what my daughter has named my near-constant attempts to draw smiles and indignation from her. (Fathers, as you know, do not tease in the same way boys on the playground do. Our brand of poking fun is truly manly, if you will.) At times, it must seem to us that God's sense of humor, irony, or poor timing is exactly that. "Don't give me an extra burden, God; you've sent enough already." In his homily, Fr John reminded the kids that God always gives the believer what she or he will need to get through difficult times. Just as they can be assured the hot lunch staff (or their Dad, I guess) will not serve snake sticks for a meal, so too God will provide for needs. Yet it is easy to doubt, to suppose that we're victims of God-teasing, as it were. In my mid-forties, I can look back over my life, and sure, crises that nearly buried me when I was younger seem mostly insignificant today. But that didn't make my anguish at the time any less painful. Breaking up with a college sweetheart led me to meet a new group of people, which pushed me into a deeper involvement in the parish, which got me back to grad school, which led to my career in ministry. That line seemed to have worked out well. The social horrors visited upon me in my Illinois days, led to my moving to Virginia, where I met my future wife. Good move there, too, God. Moving to a small town was a huge burden for my wife, but it gained us a transfer to a different social worker who had just the right child for us to adopt. My wife doesn't argue with that, especially now that she's escaped to cultural Kansas City. If you're taking a second bite today, look in Matthew 7:9-10's neighborhood (7:7). Ask. Search. Knock. If you take the tack that you have a relationship with God, I think you owe your relationship more than just quiet or sullen acquiesence when things don't go your way. Revere God, of course. But one aspect of the genius of Judaism was that human beings could complain to God about how screwed up things were. Abraham dealt with God like he would a merchant: haggling for the best deal. (cf. Genesis 18:23-32) God wasn't bothered. So when I feel put out by life's events, I don't hesitate to ask why. It's the child's way, after all. Dad, why this? Dad, why that? Why? Why? I might have a thought to pass over a snake sandwich once or twice now and then, but with all my faults, I can take care of my daughter and respond to her needs as best I can. I know God provides with the perfect foresight of grace and love for us all.

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