The Consequences of God’s Love
User's Guide to Sunday, July 12
Sunday, July 12, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14 or 3-10; Mark 6:7-13
If the Letter to the Ephesians today sounds like symbolic poetry, we should learn from the rest of the readings that it is not.
It is a passage that is great to bring to meditation. It begins: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”
That sounds like an exaggeration, like the Scripture here is painting an extra-beautiful picture to keep us always striving for greater holiness. But it is no exaggeration. God’s love for us is excessive and extreme. That should certainly be very comforting, but it should also make us slightly uncomfortable.
If a teacher, boss or relative develops a special appreciation for us, it may be a nice feeling, but it is also challenging: We know that this person is going to expect more from us, and we will have to work harder because we will not want to disappoint that high opinion of us.
The consequences of God’s love are a little bit like that.
In the same group of readings that show God loving us so well, we hear the story of what he does with those he loves.
First is Amos, the shepherd who has a laborer’s job: dressing sycamore trees. God found him in his low condition and sent him to confront the culture of his time.
We also hear about the apostles, Jesus’ special friends. He sends them out, two by two, with nothing. They do not just have to go door to door begging for their food — they have to tell their hosts and benefactors to repent.
So when God lavishes his excessive love upon us, he also puts us on the spot: Excessive love means excessive expectations.
My daughter, a collector of spiritual quotes on Pinterest, shared a quote that is appropriate here: “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”
We see that in the readings, too.
Our teacher’s, or boss’, or relative’s esteem does this a little: Such confidence draws forth our confidence; having someone see strengths in us we didn’t know we had until we see ourselves through admiring eyes.
God’s love does this a lot. God knows every inch of us and every ounce of possibility within us, and he is not afraid to call upon it. He also helps us do what he calls us to do, and cooperating with God means partnering with the King of the Universe to do the tasks that correspond closest with the purpose of all he has created.
“Without God nothing is possible,” Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann likes to say, “but with God, everything is possible.”
We are not without God; we are with him, buoyed up by his undeserved but unstoppable love.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.