The Word Engaged
Only in God
“I will never forget you.” (First Reading)
In Israel's godforsakenness, she is reminded, "Can a mother be without tenderness for the child of her womb?" The unthinkable would have to happen before Israel could be lost or forgotten.
This demand for total reliance is echoed in St. Paul's placement of his destiny in the judgment of God alone. The prophet and the apostle have only one security. They have given themselves to only one master. Undivided hearts, they inhabit a world of faith where one lives without fear.
And so it was that Jesus told us that we could never serve two masters. There can be only one bottom line: not money and all it symbolizes of security or attainment, but the will of God.
The lovely Sermon on the Mount passage evoking the birds of the air and the lilies of the field is actually a harrowing call to trust. It is a deficiency of faith that causes us to worry over health or food, past or future. The words are written easily enough, but the living of them is a daunting task. It is one thing to sing of trust in God; it is another to go through a CAT scan.
The composer John Foley has set this day's memorable Psalm 62 to a melody which draws us deeper and deeper into the purifying mystery of radical trust. When I have played his music for others in retreat or recollection, I have put the words into the more direct second person so we might feel its immediacy and risk:
Only in God will my soul be at rest,
From You comes my hope, my salvation.
You alone are my rock of safety
My strength, my glory, my God.*
As each verse unfolds, I ask the singing congregation to confront the fears that hound us.
When we look into our interior lives, what causes us unrest? Our failings and disappointments so easily unsettle us. The sense that we are passed over or unappreciated casts us down. The threat of ill health or helplessness can freeze us in fear. Our value worries us. Do we make any difference at all? Do we count? In all these movements of our soul there is a persistent refrain. Where is our anchor, what do we rely on?
Trust in God at all times, O people, and show forth your strength.
Perhaps we manage with these private worries, but are we to entrust God with all our relationships as well? That's another story. How often the loves we cling to are stifled by our fear of losing them. Our children feel our worries more readily than the care that fuels them. Past hurts settle into our hearts like clinkers. We are burdened with the people that want us and even more so by the people who seem not to. We alternately complain that we are too alone and too crowded. And it is precisely at these times that we find it so difficult to turn to the source of all love for consolation.
Many times have I heard you tell of your long-lasting love.
Even if, however, we manage to entrust ourselves and our loved ones into the hands of God, our social and political world can fill us with dread. Some worry for the future of the church: it is so rigid, it is so lax. Others stew over the state of the nation: so proud, brought so low. Many are alarmed at the condition of the world: so divided, so monolithic. Who or what can solve the latest crisis? Where can one turn?
Well, indeed our labors and efforts count in some way. But here as in every arena of life, there is no ultimate solution that is outside the hands of God.
God alone is a refuge for us and a stronghold for our fears.
In all things, what is our rock, what is our hope, what is our safety, what is our strength? And in all things, the answer bears a person's name, the only person who can serve as our security without becoming an idol that enslaves us in fear.
John Kavanaugh, SJ
Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. His untimely death is a grief for the many people he reached during his lifetime.
**From Saint Louis University