Reflection – April 21st, 2024 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Who is God For You?

Well, we are halfway through the Easter season.  This is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, and four Sundays from now we will celebrate Pentecost.  One of the characteristics of this season is the celebration of initiation sacraments.  In our parish grouping we had an adult baptism at the Easter Vigil, and we have first communion and confirmation celebrations coming up in the next few Sundays.  There is much preparation that occurs prior to the celebration of these sacraments and in all of it there is a constant theme.  That theme is that God loves us more than we can ever imagine and there is absolutely nothing we can do that will change that.  And we are told that our only response to that love should be to love God with all our heart and to love those God puts in our path.  This is not a complicated equation.  That’s why we baptize infants and invite 7 year-olds to the table.  They are able to live from their heart and get their head out of the way.

For some reason, the older we get (I get) the harder it seems to be to live from that simple truth.  We want to put conditions on God’s love and install as many hoops to jump through as possible so we can have some false sense of having earned our place in God’s kingdom.  I have shared in reflections I have written in the past the type of traditional Roman Catholic household in which I was raised.  My mom did a wonderful job of handing down her faith to all seven of her children.  For Mom, God was watching over us, but not in a good way.  God was someone to be feared and approached with great trepidation, if approached at all.  Many of our prayers were to Mary or Jesus, asking them to go to God on our behalf and present our petition while we waited patiently for the answer.  This is what she was taught by her mom and was re-enforced by most priests she would have spoken with.

I am so thankful for the faith my mother and father handed down to me as it is probably the biggest reason I am currently working in the most rewarding job I have ever had.  But, as I have gotten older, my image of God has changed from the one I grew up with.  I found that God was really hard to fall in love with.  Everything that went wrong in my life was as a result of God paying me back for something bad that I had done.  If I had a bad day Tuesday, it was because I had missed mass on Sunday.  Everything in my faith journey was cause and effect and I was giving myself way too much credit for having the ability to influence God’s actions.  This image of God that I had created did not look anything like the God who loves me so much that he has my name written in the palm of his hand.

This loving God is the God we tell parents and children about and adults who are seeking initiation into the church.  We explain as best we can that sacraments are a celebration of a relationship that already exists.  Having your baby baptized does not create God’s love for your child.  Your child has been infinitely loved since the moment of conception.  And just as your child has done nothing to earn your love except exist, so it is with us and God.  God wants us to know that troubles will come, but that we will not face them alone.  For me, the most comforting line in Scripture is Matthew 28:20 which says, “I will be with you always, even until the end of the world”.  This is a God we can trust.  This is a God we can brag about to all those we meet.  This is a God who sent his only son to die so that we may have eternal life.  This is a God for whom being apart from us is unthinkable.  This is our God, and we want to share him with the world.

~Mark Mahoney, Pastoral Associate


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