Tuesday, 4 May 2010


A priest-friend of mine had excruciating toothache. A pious soul admonished him, "If you had faith you would be freed from pain." A number of replies come to mind...not all of them printable. But this was a holy priest. He answered that perhaps God thought it good for him to suffer an amount of pain...as penance for his own sins and those of the world.

And yet there are times when God does help us, heal us and shield us from misfortunes in ways that we don't understand. But for the most part, God takes care of us without there being supernatural apparitions or interventions.

It falls within God's beautiful plan for the world that He has created that my priest friend could take his toothache to one whom the Almighty Creator had given the ability to learn and apply the wisdom of dentistry. God had enabled him to acquire knowledge about pain-suppressors and antiseptics, which 'earth has given and human hands have made.'

The priest could have replied with a Caribbean saying,
When God can't come, He does send"
...by providing the local community with a dentist.

It is a beautiful thing that God has accorded to us human beings, made in His own image and likeness, the privilege of being stewards of His creation. Different people are to tend , develop, safeguard us and even deal with our toothaches.

To my mind, it isn't so much a case of, "When God can't come" nor, "When God doesn't want to come."..."He does send." This is no 'either or' situation. God either visibly comes to the rescue or else He sends His agent. It's like this...God is actively present in the person He sends. God loves people, guides them, protects and helps them through people like you and me. And we are helped in our times of distress by those whom God has sent to us. He has provided us with a beautiful support system!

And so I love the tune:
People who need people,
Are the luckiest people in the world."

What foolishness to regard being dependent upon others as a sign of being inadequate. What selfishness to consider that having people dependent upon us as an intrusion upon our freedom. There are people who extol themselves for being self-reliant, self-made, and sufficient unto themselves; and those who rejoice if they have no need of anyone. Perhaps they hope no one will make any demands on them.

Personally, I would find it a very lonely kind of existence for me to barricade myself from the caring interest others have for me. Shame on me if I were to cultivate indifference to those who are helpless! Certainly I am not attracted to a spirituality of not needing the companionship and loving support of others because we have God as our refuge and our strength. Nor do I subscribe to a piety of thanking God for a good meal, without my thanking mother, who went to all the trouble of cooking it!

Yes, we can say, "When God can't come He does send"...so long as we're not suggesting that God is sending us a substitute for Himself. No creature could fulfil that role. What we mean is that God is there channeling His healing power and love through the dentist dealing with our toothache, feeding us through mother's scrumptious meals, rescuing us through the life-saver hauling us out of the towering waves.

In this kind of world God wants me to reach out to people through my being 'there for them' in their anguish and pain. And when I find myself forlorn or forsaken I trust there will be those who are all of this for me. I love the idea that "When God cant come , He does send." So much richer than the arid secular approach of hoping people will conveniently 'turn up' in our moments of need!

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will reflect on Meeting God in a Pair of Sandals

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