“And even the hairs on your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” These words were proclaimed in today’s holy Gospel.
Here is a 1 sentence summary of the key message of today’s Gospel: trust in divine providence.
Let’s consider the 2 main ideas in this summary. The 1st idea is divine providence. Let’s begin with a basic truth. God’s love for us is perfect, is without limit, is unchanging, and it never comes to an end.
We refer to this steadfast, infinite and loving care as providence. Having created everything, God is not like a watchmaker who winds up his creation and is content to merely observe the ticking until it stops of its own accord. Nor is God a cold distant project manager who assigns a task to be completed and then walks away and leaves us all to our own devices.
The opposite is true. God is onsite, active and involved in our lives, moment by moment. We have such great value are so precious in God’s eyes that he knows the exact number of hairs on each of our heads. That’s how much our lives matter to God!
In other words, divine providence means that there is a loving, wise and powerful God at work in the world and present in the world, guiding the course of all things and all people.
Pope Francis has put it this way; “It is important to remember that despite all its frailties, the world still belongs to God. Everyone belongs to God. The worst sinners, the wickedest people, the most corrupt leaders, they are children of God, and Jesus feels this and intercedes for everyone”.
The 2nd idea in the summary sentence is “trust”. There is a direct relationship between providence and trust. The more we believe in divine providence, the deeper our trust in God is.
The prophet Jeremiah in the 1st Reading gives us an excellent example of what it means to trust. At this point in his life, Jeremiah is totally discouraged. He considers himself a total failure as a prophet. He is overwhelmed by all the rejection and opposition he has experienced. All he wants to do is quit.
But there was something inside Jeremiah that caused him to bring his doubts and his troubles to God. In his prayer, he realizes that the Lord is at his side as his helper. He decides to take refuge in the Lord and to trust that God is more powerful than any trial or difficulty.
Jeremiah’s life teaches us that it’s easy to have faith during the good times. The real test occurs when times are hard. When distressing situations overwhelm us, we know our faith is real if we cling to it rather than cling to ourselves or to other human beings or to material attachments. We know our faith is authentic and enduring if we rely on it even more when challenges and hardships come.
When we don’t understand what is happening to us, when we don’t like what is happening to us, when we didn’t ask for what is happening to us, when we wish things were different in our lives, it is easy to get bitter, to be angry with God, hate God or turn our back on God. However, Jeremiah shows to us that we can choose a different response. Jeremiah’s faith was tested; but he never abandoned it. He is a model of being a strong witness to faith and persevering to the end.
Like Jeremiah, we, too, can deliberately abandon ourselves totally to God and consciously commend our lives and those of our loved ones to God.
Here is a quotation from Fr. Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love: “You will hear voices saying, “You are worthless, you have nothing to offer, you are unattractive, undesirable, unlovable.” Do not be afraid. Keep deepening your conviction that God’s love for you is enough, that you are in safe hands, and that you are being guided every step of the way”.
The invitation of today’s Gospel is to have the utmost confidence in God at all times. Regardless of the adversity or, as was the case with Jeremiah, persecution and suffering we may experience, God will never abandon us. We are called to count on, to depend on God’s constant care for his people. Even in the face of a deadly virus, we can be joyful, hopeful and unafraid. That’s the reason for which the 1st Reading concludes with the command: “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord”.
“And even the hairs on your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” These powerful words are addressed to each of us this morning as we journey through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As our Eucharist continues, let us offer 2 prayers to God. First, let us ask God to deepen in the very heart of our being a conviction in divine providence: that God is in control and that he governs the universe and our lives with purpose and fidelity. He loves us and knows all our needs.
Second, let us ask God to help us to remain firm, constant and unwavering in our trust in him. With his divine assistance, the storms of life will not cause us to lose our faith. On the contrary, our belief in God’s saving presence can be nurtured and strengthened under these circumstances.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti June 21, 2020