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Looking Closer, Looking Beyond

March 17, 2019   Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

Sunday, March 17, 2019
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Fr. George Smiga

The grace of God is active everywhere. But most of the places in which God is acting, we do not see. Think for a minute how little of this world you have seen with your own eyes. Even if you travel extensively, there is only a small fraction of the world that you have seen personally. Even if we take a local example, such as the city of Cleveland, there are certainly more neighborhoods and streets in the city that you have not seen than those you have. And yet, God is active in all of them.

This is the truth that God tries to get across to Abraham in today’s first reading. As a sign of the vastness of his love, God takes Abraham outside at night and has him look up to count the stars if he is able. How many stars could Abraham count? Scientists tell us that on a clear night, you can see about a thousand stars with the naked eye. But that is not all the stars that exist. Four hundred years ago when Galileo invented the telescope, people were then able to see about three thousand stars on a clear night. And today, with the Hubble telescope, we can identify over a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone. And still, there is so much of God’s work we cannot see.

This realization should give us hope. Because if God is active in so many places that we cannot see, then certainly the power of goodness in our world is greater than we usually imagine. In fact, it would be a good Lenten discipline to try to see more instances of God’s goodness in our world. How can we do this? Here are two ways: by looking closer and by looking beyond.

We look closer when we take time to see the instances of good that are right around us. Often we are so preoccupied by work and deadlines that we live through a day and never look at the goodness that is right at hand. What if we took a few moments to simply sit and listen to our children as they play? What would we hear? We may hear some fighting and teasing. But we would also hear the joy of their laughter and the enthusiasm for living. Certainly God is present in that. What if we noticed the way that a neighbor or a family member shows love and faithfulness to a spouse with dementia or to an aging parent? Would we not then see in that commitment and courage the presence of God? What if we called to mind a close friend whom we have known for many years and remembered the way that our soul fills with delight when we hear his or her voice? Is that not the presence of God’s grace? We see more of God’s goodness around us, when we look closer.

We also need to look beyond. In our world, bad news travels fast. The media is always ready to present us with another shooting, another crime, another political catastrophe. Although it is important for us to know these events and the harm that can come from them, it is also important to look beyond them. We should remember the thousands of single parents who work multiple jobs so that their children might receive a good education. We should count the number of public officials who give their lives in service so that integrity and justice might be a part of our social fabric. We should remind ourselves of the clergy, teachers, and coaches who continue to serve our children honestly, even in a society that is shaken by the reality of sexual abuse.

Good things are happening all around us. Most of them we do not see. But God is active in all of them. So this Lent, let us look closer and let us look beyond. Because every time we notice another instance of God’s grace, our hearts are buoyed up, our resolution is strengthened, and we have another reason to give praise to the God whose love for us never fails.

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