16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Lord, You are good and forgiving.”

Note: Fr. Ed’s homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time is now available online! Click here to listen.

The Foundation for the Good News

The fundamental reality that is the foundation for the good news is this truth, that the Lord our God is good and forgiving. If He were not, what would be our reason for hope, or the desire to experience mercy? But we know that He is good and forgiving!

This is a message that first we need to convince ourselves of. In the movie The Shack, as the God the Father person explains to Mack, the principle protagonist in the movie, his fundamental problem was that he did not believe that God is good. Failure to believe that was the foundation for all other difficulties, like inability to trust. How can you trust someone that you do not believe is good?

The Problem of Evil

One of the arguments that the atheists and agnostics have been using against believers from the beginning is the idea that if God was good, evil could not happen. They therefore conclude, since evil happens, either God is not good, or God does not exist. The so-called problem of evil argument takes many forms, but that is a common one.

The movie does a spectacular job of dealing with that problem head-on, and if that issue has ever been an issue for you, you may find the movie helpful. It addresses this fundamental challenge that we often face as Christians:  bad things still happen to us, while we, at the same time, acknowledge that our God is benevolent and all-powerful. We acknowledge that He has made certain promises to us, and that the Scriptures clearly maintain that He is capable of working all things together for our good. It is a constant challenge for us, as we experience life in this fallen world, to keep our faith and our trust in Him, when challenging, even devastating things are happening around us and, particularly, to those we love.

To Trust or Not to Trust

What are the options? When faced with a very grave crisis, when the Lord Jesus asked the disciples if they too wanted to walk away, their response was there was nowhere else to go, because He alone had the words of eternal life. This is as true for us as it was for them. When faced with a mystery that we cannot understand, we have a choice: to trust Him or not to trust Him. Of course, the snake immediately tries to exploit such crisis times by trying to convince us that He is not trustworthy, so we would be better off just walking away. Obviously, that is the snake’s plan, because if we walk away from the King of Kings, we will be an easy target for the snake.

In point of fact, when we face those times which seem to be the greatest challenge to our faith, this is precisely when we need to cling even more closely to the Lord Jesus. It is difficult for us not to sit in judgment on God when He does not seem to be doing things our way, or at least in a way that we could understand. There is a great scene in that movie about the problems involved with sitting in judgment on God. Of course, that is a central point to the whole book of Job as well, and that reaches its climax when Job realizes that he will never sit in a chair so high that he can now look down on and judge God. On some level, all of us are aware of that, but unfortunately, often that does not keep us from doing it anyway.

As we approach our parish doing Alpha, it is particularly crucial for each of us to wrestle with these issues, since the folks that may come to us in Alpha will almost certainly have some of these very same questions. They will want to know how we worked out such things, and hopefully we will have something useful to share with them, at the appropriate time. To continue to immerse ourselves in God’s Word, allowing the presence of the Lord Jesus there to continue to build our faith, is a great way to prepare for those conversations, as well as to let the prayer of the desperate man in Scripture be ours as well, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” The King Who loves us beyond words is happy to do so, filling us with more, both for ourselves and for all those He will send us!–Fr. Ed