• Father David M. Knight

Arguing with God


March 30, 2017

Thursday, Lent Week Four

View Today's Readings

“Lord, remember us, for the love you bear your people.”

The Responsorial (Psalm 106) presumes the value of prayer. Now we see an example of it.

In Exodus 32: 7-14 Moses gives God good advice, reminds him of what God seems to have forgotten, and gets God to change his mind about what he had planned to do. Yeah, right.

This is a good example of the way God inspires the Scripture writers. He inspires them with truth, but truth expressed in the kind of words and images the writers understood, and that the people for whom they were writing would understand. Sometimes a story incorporates assumptions everyone had that were false, but which it was not yet time to challenge.

From our way of seeing things, our prayer does affect what God does. God already knows from all eternity what he is going to do, but he has made some of it conditional on our asking for it. Why?

God does not want to save the world unilaterally. He wants humans to have a part, real part, in it. One way in our power is to pray for each other. Then God can say, truly, that what he does is our gift as well as his. We ask, God answers, and we are joined in love.

Also, if we “argue” with God, as Moses did, it lets God inspire us with questions and answers that lead us to clearer understanding of ourselves and him. God is a teacher; we are disciples. Disciples learn through dialogue.

In John 5: 31-47 Jesus is trying to dialogue, except that it takes two to tango, and Pharisees never answer.

Jesus gives four reasons for believing in him and seven why people don’t.

Those who bear witness to Jesus are: 1. John the Baptizer, whose life made people trust him; 2. the works (good deeds and miracles) Jesus performs; 3. the Father himself; 4. the Scriptures, and specifically Moses.

People refuse to believe because 1. God’s word is not abiding in their hearts; 2. and this is because of their free choice not to accept Jesus, the “one God has sent”; 3. they don’t desire eternal life enough to come to Jesus for it; 4. they accept others who do not come in the name of God; 5. they accept praise from one another; 6. they do not seek the glory that comes from God; 7. they don’t believe Moses or the Scriptures.

Later, Jesus will specify that all the reasons for believing in him are secondary to the testimony the Father and Spirit give within the hearts of those who are open. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” Those whose hearts are good will just know.[1]

The readings in the Liturgy of the Word are intended to encourage reflection. So take time to go through the “four and seven” above. See which apply to you. [2]

Initiative: Believe Scripture as divine revelation. Read it as human dialogue.

[1] John 3:20-21, 6:44-45, 8:42, 10:38, 14:11.

[2] General Instruction on the Roman Missal, no. 56.


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