Thursday, 14 November 2013


A friend of mine gave his son an expensive metal detector for Christmas.  This, he thought, would give the child hours of excitement, hunting for hidden treasure.  It would be the envy of his friends; it would get him out of the house, into the fresh air, and from under his parents’ feet.  A truly inspired, loving choice of a present.  And how did the child react?  Well, he took his metal detector into the garden.  After an hour’s search the child had found only a useless bent nail –certainly nothing valuable.  Disillusioned, the child impatiently put his expensive toy back in its box and never used it again.
  Naturally his dad was disappointed; his son didn’t appreciate the present he’d been given.  He wasn’t even grateful for it.  Sadly his dad wondered, “Why did I bother?” I bet we’ve all felt like that.  We’ve gone to considerable trouble to help someone.  Or we’ve been generous and thoughtful in choosing a present.  And what do they do?  Criticise or ignore us for what we’ve done for them!  Exasperated, we wonder why we ever bothered with such ungrateful ‘so and sos.’ We think they don’t deserve to be shown kindness and care.  But we know that Jesus taught us to give without expecting any return –even a ‘thank you.’  We hope their ingratitude won’t stop us loving and caring for them.  I’m sure I’m just as ungrateful as anyone else. 
 My reactions to how ungrateful all of us can be towards each other led me to ask myself, “What about the ungrateful way we treat God?”  He’s given us all that we have, all that we are.  He’s gone to such lengths to make it possible for us to share His life and happiness. And how do we behave?  We can be so rebellious. We rarely say, “Thank you.”  We can take Him for granted; we can totally ignore Him.   Meditating on the last sorrowful mystery of the Rosary –the crucifixion -a blinding, earth-shattering question leapt to my mind.  Quite simply, “Why does God bother with us?   Why does God bother with me?”  
As I wrestled with this question I realized that as God set creation in motion He fully realized all the implications of what He was doing.  He knew we would rebel against Him; but He knew that His love for His creation would not allow us to destroy ourselves.  In creating us God knew He would have to take drastic measures to rescue us from our ‘self-destruct’ mode.  That would mean the Son of God becoming man, living amongst us and allowing His own creatures brutally to execute Him on the cross.   Amazingly, in creating us, God, in His wisdom, took all this into account.  Why did He say a resounding, “Yes,” not “No” to the very idea of creation?
Such thoughts provoked the question, screaming for an immediate answer, “Why did God bother, when He knew we’d cause Him so much trouble?” Why did God chose to bring so much unnecessary aggravation upon Himself?  Or as the Psalmist exclaimed, “What is man that you are mindful of him, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8. 4).  And the only answer I found to the question, “Why did, does, God bother?” was to be found in the simple word ‘love.’  , Theologians have a saying –goodness, of its very nature, reaches out and spreads itself.   In other words, God’s so generous-hearted He wants others –us people –to share His life and happiness.   Wonder of wonders, in creating us He realized what that would cost Him.   He was prepared for that.  That’s how much He loves us!
Even though we people frequently rebel against Him God refuses to abandon us.  Humanly speaking, we almost seem to push God to breaking point, to destroying His own creation.   But then the prophet Hosea has God conclude, My heart recoils within me;    my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger;    I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst,   and I will not come in wrath,” (Hosea 11. 8-9).* In spite of all our faults, God loves us too much to destroy us.  More than that, God has a reputation to maintain. He couldn’t allow the ungodly to despise and accuse Him for being incapable of saving those He claimed to love!
Instead, God is like the most loving of parents; He’s prepared to go to any lengths to save us, His children, from self-destruction. His love is utterly unshakeable; it’s not brittle or fickle.  St. John’s Gospel puts this beautifully, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  (Jn. 3 16-17).
During Christmastide the Church rejoices in the wonder of God’s saving love -so great that the Son was prepared to live among us, die for us and rise from the tomb –simply so that we could share His divine life and happiness.  We sing, "O admirable exchange..” God became like us, so that we could become like Him; He shared our human life, so that we could share His divine life.  Then, at the Easter Vigil, we exult in God’s mysterious wisdom.  He knew that He could achieve a greater good by allowing evil than by preventing it. Ecstatically, paradoxically, the Church sings, O happy fault (original sin) that merited such and so great a Redeemer."
So what’s the best –the only answer -to the question, “Why did, does, God bother with us?”     In his Letter to the Romans St. Paul was filled with a sense of wonder at the mystery of God and His dealings with man, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!   ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?     Or who has been his counsellor? … To him be the glory for ever. Amen,” (Rom. 11. 33,35).
Paul, the greatest of all theologians, was forced to admit that He couldn’t understand the mystery of God.  After all our agitated searching for explanations we are reduced to humble silence.  We can best meet God in quiet stillness of mind and heart, as the Psalmist assures us, "Be still, and know that I am God," (Ps. 46. 10).  Paradoxically, the better we get to know God, the more we realize how little we understand Him.  The mystery of divine love, the mystery of any love, defies and transcends analysis and explanations. I’m more than content with that. I just thank God for the wonder of His love.  God’s love for us is the best, and only answer to the question, “Why did He, why does He, bother with us?” 
Isidore O.P.                          

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