The 2nd Sunday of Lent – The Homily
“Why does God remain hidden and invisible? Why doesn’t God just show himself plainly in a way that nobody can dispute?” writes author Father Ronald Rolheiser.
This “hiddenness of God” was the main topic this weekend at our men’s Gospel reflection group. In discussing their faith and their relationship with God, words such as, “faith struggle: frustration, expectations, time stress, what, why, when, having to wait, trying, failing and not sure” were mentioned. At times the men really “wrestle with God,” with their faith, with themselves, with their lives, with the love of their wives and families. It’s not just “challenging.” That wasn’t the right word. It’s “mysterious.”
Fr. Rolheiser continues:
I began to search for different answers or for better articulations of our stock answers to this question. And there was a pot of gold at the end of the search; it led me to the mystics, What’s their answer? There are no simple answers.
We’re talking about the ineffability of God, the mystery of faith, and the obscure complexity of the human person. In essence, how we know as human beings and how we know God is deeply paradoxical, that is, the more deeply we know anything, the more that person or object begins to become less conceptually clear.
One of the most famous mystics in history suggests that as we enter into deeper intimacy we simultaneously enter into a “Cloud of Unknowing,” namely, into a knowing so deep that it can no longer be conceptualized and that the images and notions of that person begin to break down.
Imagine this: A friend says to you: “I understand you perfectly: I know your family, your background, your ethnicity, your psychological and emotional temperaments, your strengths, your weakness, and your habits. I understand you.” Would you really feel understood?
Now imagine a very different scenario: A friend says to you: I’ve known you for years, but you’ve a depth that’s somehow beyond me. The longer I know you, the more I know that you are your own enigma. You’re a mystery to me!” In this non-understanding, in being allowed to be the full mystery of your own person in that friend’s understanding, you would, paradoxically, feel much better understood.
I saw this play out recently during Valentine’s Day weekend. St. Monica had hosted a 3-day “Living in Love” retreat here and about 70 other couples from all around the archdiocese attended a Sunday afternoon Valentine’s Day evening of reflection and Malvern Retreat House. These were couples who had been married to each other for a number of years. They knew each other intimately. Yet nevertheless, throughout the weekend as they engaged each other and the exercises presented throughout the weekend, it was fascinating to see how they discovered new sides, new aspects, new insights of their spouse. With that entrée into what had been, up to then, the unknown, a greater intimacy begin to develop.
In Jesus’ work of training the disciples there were two basic phases: identification and then true understanding. In between was often a period of deep darkness, misunderstanding, fear and confusion.
- God sent Abraham a terrifying darkness before He revealed Himself in a vision.
- The Disciples had been overcome by sleep, before becoming fully awake, and seeing the glory of Christ.
- Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah but was totally blind as to the idea of what that meant.
Just because we don’t “see” (or feel or sense) God’s presence doesn’t mean that he is not close by. Just because we seem to be struggling with our faith and our relationship with God does not mean that we are on the wrong pathway. Is it possible that discord in a relationship is an invitation to a deeper intimacy?
The Opening Prayer from the Second Sunday of Lent is taken from Psalm 13 (The lament of the just man who does not lose hope in God) the psalmist summarizes this:
How long, O Lord, will you forget me? How long will you hide your face?
How long must I bear grief in my soul, this sorrow in my heart day and night?
Look at me, answer me, Lord my God! Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death.
You might be thinking that there is something wrong. In fact, God might have you exactly where you need to be and the darkness for the blindness is just an invitation to enter into the cloud of unknowing and gain a deeper intimacy with God.
Audio version of the homily is here: