LISTENING TO HIM

T

he learned Franciscan, Duns Scotus, once heard a farmer uttering frightful curses and begged him not to damn his soul so thoughtlessly. The farmer answered, “God knows everything. He knows whether I shall go to heaven or to hell. If He knows that I shall go to heaven, why to heaven I shall go; If He knows that I shall go to hell, why to hell I shall go. What does it matter, then, what I do or say?”

“In that case,” answered Duns Scotus, “Why bother to plow your fields? God knows whether they will bear a good crop or not. If he knows that they will bear a good harvest, the harvest will be good whether you plow or not. If He knows that your crop will be a failure, why a failure it will be. So why should you waste your time plowing?”

The farmer then understood the real meaning of the omniscience of God.

(Catechism Stories, p. 12).

Cooperating with God

God knows everything above and below, but we do not; therefore we have to search. God knows how many stars there are in the sky; we do not; therefore astronomers have to search for them in the universe. God knows everything from the beginning till the end, but we do not; therefore scientists have to study and experiment to discover the truth of everything. God knows all the causes of diseases and illness, but we do not; therefore doctors and scientists have to do research for the cures. God knows everything about us, but we do not; therefore, we have to take the responsibility to take charge of our life. God knows everything about us but we do not know everything about Him; therefore we need God revealing himself to us. God knows all the solutions of problems in the world, we do not; therefore we have to pray and ask for guidance.

Epiphanies of God

The second Sunday celebrates the epiphanies of God. God initiates his relationship with us. God takes Abram outside and shows him the sky. God offers the promise to Abram. God reveals to Abram and Abram puts his faith in the Lord. Putting his faith in the Lord means that he is cooperating with God. Abram consults with God when he does not understand or unsure of what he should do. He does what God asks him to do. He follows God’s instruction. God wants him to bring a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon; he brings them to God. God wants him to split them in two; he splits them in two. God wants him to place each half opposite the other. He puts them opposite the other. Abram works with God; therefore, he is considered a righteous person.

To work with God we must pay attention and listen to his voice to find out what God wants of us. We can learn from Jesus. He takes Peter, John, and James up to the mountain to pray. Two significant things happen when they are praying. Jesus changes in his appearance and his clothing becomes dazzling white; and God speaks to them. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” God makes his will known when we pray. If the three disciples chose not to go with Jesus to the mountain to pray, they would never have this opportunity to see the glorious beauty of Jesus appearance. They also would not hear God’s voice affirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. 

Misinterpretation

Witnessing the glory of Jesus’ transfiguration, the disciples are excited. Peter speaks up: “Master, how good it is for us to stay here. Let us set up three tents and stay.” Peter is trying to take the heavenly glory of the transfiguration of Christ and get it anchored in earthly life. He forgets what Jesus has told them, “The Son of Man must first endure many sufferings, be rejected by the elders, the high priests and the scribes, and be put to death, and then be raised up on the third day” (Lk. 9:22). And “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps...” (Lk. 9:23). They want to make a short cut to glory. Their way of thinking is not Jesus’ way of thinking. Their vision of Christian life is not Jesus’ vision. The Philippians make the same mistake. They do not focus on what God wants but on what they want. St. Paul chastises them: “Many go about in a way which shows them to be the enemies of the cross of Christ. Such as these will end in disaster. Their God is their belly and their glory is in their shame. I am talking about those who are set upon the things of this world.” (Phil. 3:17f).

Many of us can identify with the disciples and the Philippians. We want to believe in God, but we also serve other gods in life. We believe there is heaven and hell, eternal reward and punishment; but what we believe do not really have much influence in the way we live our lives. We want joy and glory of eternal life, but we do not want sufferings. We want to go to heaven, but we do not want to die. We want to be rewarded, but we do not want to carry the cross. We expect God to please us, but we do not always want to live a life that is pleasing to God.

In a Gallup Poll, 96% of Americans indicated their belief in God; 85%   indicated their belief in heaven; and 70% of people believed in hell. But how much do these beliefs is being translated into real life? It is very little. Open the newspaper and read the headlines, we can see so many bad news, war, crimes, poverty, greed, tension, immoral activities etc.  

Christian Vision

The transfiguration of Jesus is a vision of the glorious future for the disciples as well as for us. The voice of the Father: “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him” means that we must look at Jesus and listen to Him. He is the vision of our life. He is the hope of our future. The responsorial psalm expresses the theme of our life, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

St. Paul emphasizes in the second reading: “As you well know, we have our citizenship in heaven; it is from there that we eagerly await the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ... For these reasons my dear ones, continue to stand firm in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:1).

Fr. John Kha Tran
Houston, TX