God’s Providence Is Real

Jun 25, 2017: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalms 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

God hears the cry of the poor! That is what today’s Psalm tells us. The First Reading says the same thing: “Praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” Jeremiah jubilantly proclaims God’s power and faithfulness: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion,” he says, “my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

These are beautiful words. However, are they too good to be true? Does God really hear the cry of the poor? What about the 115,000 unborn babies worldwide who will be murdered in their mothers’ wombs today? What about the 10 million children worldwide who are trafficked into slavery every year? What about the 1440 people throughout the world who will commit suicide today? What about the countless victims of natural disasters, war, and poverty? What about the agonizing moral and emotional suffering hidden in our own hearts and our neighbors’? Is the Lord really with us? Is he really a mighty champion?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Not a sparrow alights on the ground without the Father’s knowledge.

Every hair on every head is counted. Jesus used those striking images so that there would be absolutely no doubt left in our minds: God is watching over all of us and guiding the course of history — nothing escapes His providential care. If it ever seems otherwise, that’s only because we are not looking at the whole story. Reality, Jesus teaches us, includes eternity. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” God’s Providence is real. It will never let us down. Every evil deed will be set right, and every prayer will be answered.

Thousands of people convert to Catholicism every year. Each one of them has a unique story. Moreover, every single story is an advertisement for the reality of God’s providence.

Take Jennie Bee Heaton, for example. Born and raised Buddhist in Malaysia, at age 30 she married a Catholic and moved to England. She started going to Mass with her husband and tried to familiarize herself with the Catholic faith — but her heart was not in it. In September 2005, they made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. John Paul II. There, by chance, they met Br Branigan Sherman, originally from California, who was studying for the priesthood in Rome. Their conversation turned to the faith, and Jennie mentioned her doubts. Br Branigan asked what they were, but she shrugged him off “Too many to talk about!” she told him. For the next two years, they kept in touch by email: she would send questions, and Br Branigan would send answers — but she was still keeping God at a distance. At Christmas 2007, Terry and Jennie returned to Rome for Br Branigan’s priestly ordination. The ceremony and Fr Branigan’s first Mass moved her to tears. “I could not stop crying,” she wrote later. “It was like this turmoil was bubbling inside me. I had to speak with Fr Branigan!”

When they finally had a chance to speak, Fr Branigan told her the story about the man who thought he trusted in God’s providence. A flood comes and he is first offered escape in a car, then in a boat, and finally, as the water is rising, in a helicopter, but every time he refuses, saying, “No, God will save me!” When he dies and goes to Judgment, he asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God responds, “I sent you a car, then a boat, then a helicopter, what more could you want?”

Their last day in Rome Terry and Jennie went into St Peter’s Basilica for a final look around before heading to the airport. Confused and frustrated with so many conflicting emotions and thoughts going through her soul, Terrie found herself in front of the statue of St Peter. “You saw Jesus.” she prayed, “but you doubted Him and you rejected Him three times! So how can you expect me to believe? Help me then, show me what to do!” Suddenly — it hit her like a ton of bricks — she realized, “Oh my God! Fr Branigan is my helicopter!” As soon as she could, she called up Fr Branigan: “Fr. Branigan, you are my helicopter!” she blurts out. Silence, then laughter, then tears. A few months later, at the Easter Vigil 2008, in Rome, Fr Branigan baptized Jennie.

God’s providence is real. As the Catechism tells us in its very first paragraph, “For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of His family, the Church.” Nothing escapes God’s all-loving, all-powerful providence.

This should be a source of comfort for us.

No matter how dark the tunnel of life gets, as Christians, we are always able to see a light ahead, our resurrected Lord.

Today, when Jesus renews His commitment to us in this Mass, let’s thank Him for this great gift.

However, taking comfort in this truth is only half the story.

The reality of God’s providence has another practical consequence: it gives us supernatural courage. Courage gives us strength to resist enemies and overcome obstacles. Believing in God’s providence helps us do that, because it reminds us that we are never fighting alone. Courage also gives us strength to undertake worthwhile but difficult projects, to set out to do great things for God and neighbor. Believing in God’s providence helps us do that too, because we know that if we are striving to do great things for God, He will, as St. Paul once wrote, make all things work together to help us.

What great thing has God put on your heart? What project has the Holy Spirit planted in the back of your mind?

Today, as we renew our faith in God’s providence, let’s claim that supernatural courage and move that project forward.

After all, doing great things for Christ is what we were made for.

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