It’s a good question. We think of famine and genocide and injustice and the divorce rate and addictions and wonder, Why doesn’t God come down here and fix all these problems? Even in the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius has a meditation on the Incarnation when the Trinity is looking down upon the world. The person praying is to see through God’s eyes and see what God sees:
“Men and women are being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, I can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing.”
(Spiritual Exercises [102-108], David Fleming, SJ – Draw Me Into Your Friendship)
We know how the story continues, God decides to send down the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, to redeem humankind. But the answer is not that easy. Jesus is not the end of the story. In fact, the Spiritual Exercises seek to remind you that you are part of the story, too. You and every person on this earth are called to Christ’s mission of redemption and repair. Jesus gives his disciples (that means you) great power to change the world. That authority comes from Jesus:
“Jesus drew near and said to them, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.'”
This passage in Matthew and Jesus’ command is about more than just converting and baptising. Jesus is asking his disciples to bring goodness and restoration and justice to the world. He is calling them to participate in his mission, the whole point God chose to send the Second Person into a broken and hurting world.
So God is not just a problem solver who “fixes” anything without effort from us. No, the reason our world is not instantly fixed is because there are many people who choose not to participate in God’s plan. Those people continue to live for the self, not the other. And so they murder and steal and withhold nourishment and justice and love.
Knowing God is not about a feel good message that “prayer equals problems solved”. No. Knowing God means working alongside God for the healing of the world and using the authority and ability given to us to fulfil our part. Human beings are great problem solvers and quite resilient. These are God-given and meant to aid us in restoring peace and justice—not just our own peace or a false selfish justice—but a peace and justice that grows out of our collaboration with a God who dearly loves all.
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