Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Recently I read Marvin A. Sweeney's Reading the Hebrew Scriptures after the Shoah, Engaging Holocaust Theology. It's a very challenging book because the systematic murder of millions of Jews, gypsies, gays, disabled persons, Catholic clergy, Jehovah's Witnesses and others remains -- and must remain -- one of the most scandalous events in human history. No one can be aware of that tragedy and not wonder about God's reputed justice, wisdom and mercy.

Is it any wonder that some deny it ever happened? Their denial, of course, is irrational in the face of historical facts but nonetheless comprehensible. They are drowning souls scrambling for the river bank of certainty from a swirling eddy of facts despite a muddy bottom of doubt that sucks at their feet.

As I read Professor Sweeney's book I also pray through the Liturgy of the Hours, reading each psalm and canticle with his challenges heavy on my mind. The Jewish scholar does not directly address the New Testament writings but I hear his doubts raised against our selection from Saint Matthew today, "Ask and it will be given to you...."

Maybe. Maybe not.

Sweeney scans the entire Hebrew Bible and, halfway through my reading, as I prayed my prayers, I realized all sacred literature is preoccupied with the question, "Is God faithful?" In the Book of Genesis, Abraham repeatedly proved his fidelity even as he waited to his one hundredth year for the Lord to demonstrate his! And then, twelve years later, the same Lord demanded the murder of Isaac as a test of Abraham's fidelity! Go figure!

In my experience as a priest, the most uncomfortable conversations are with those Christians and Catholics who claim to be absolutely certain of God. Some say they do not believe, they know! Good luck to them.

I once attended a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar when the cast and audience alike blew right past the question, "Who is this man?" They seemed to know the answer to Mary Magdalene's question, " to love him?" Surrounded by fans -- fanatics? -- I thought I should keep my doubts to myself. My liturgy would not be a blaring stage presentation with raucous audience participation but a quiet Sunday Eucharist.

Keeping faith, it seems to me, is allowing one's doubts to remain and continually deciding to ask, seek, and knock. We work out our salvation always on the edge of uncertainty.

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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.