Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Lectionary: 276

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

One of the hardest lessons of our faith -- hard to get first because it's unexpected; and because it runs counter to our self-understanding -- is this doctrine of God's initiative.

When I turn to God it's not because I have finally chosen God among the many available options, it's because the Father is drawing me to him.

First there is that suspicion of unfairness. "Why would God call me and not someone else? Is that fair?" 

The response might be that of Jesus to Peter when he asked about the Beloved Disciple: "What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”

Among our many responsibilities is not a challenge of God's wisdom or fairness. Jesus, especially as we encounter him in Saint John's Gospel, will not explain the ways of God. Rather he presents us with the grace and opportunity to be saved. Take it or leave it; but don't put it off too long. 

I work in the healing ministry at the VA hospital in Louisville. Many patients come readily and willingly to the hospital, eager to be well and eager to make whatever sacrifices are necessary. Surgery, pills, diet, therapy, exercise -- whatever it takes. Some have only to be reminded, "Doctors don't know everything, they need your intelligence also!" 

But some have "issues" with compliance. They are not willing to surrender. Hospitalization usually means a significant change in one's life. It will never be the same; it will never get back to normal. The best the patient can hope for is a new normal which is no more uncomfortable than the old. 

Doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains do not change people. We can offer sympathy and reasonable advice but actually adjusting to a new way of life must come from somewhere else. 

Some hospitalized people cannot deny they're in trouble but they are quite sure they can manage it as soon as the doctor puts them back on their feet. Oddly, repeated return trips don't change these attitudes. The alcoholic can hardly wait to get home and drink again; the smoker lights up in the very exit of the hospital, sometimes blocking the door until the first draft of smoke has penetrated his tattered lungs! Addicts have contacted their drug suppliers from the hospital bed. Many complain about the hospital food, which was designed by dieticians specifically for their conditions. They don't like the food -- as if liking food is really important! 

Helping such "customers" is like wandering through a maze laced with landmines. One gets used to the practice of futility. 

Jesus says, "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me." 

Healing begins with listening. It begins when I let God's voice enter my ears, take possession of my mind, remove my opinions, adjust my attitudes and sit in the control room of my heart. Only with that voice to guide me can I come to Jesus. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.