Upon my arrival to the Middlefield-Parkman area, I noticed a unique feature of our beloved State Route 528: buggy lanes. Needless to say, there’s been some beautiful “cultural shifts” involved with ministry at SS. Edward’s and Lucy’s; such as, learning that pet peacocks getting loose will find their way home after roosting below your office window, so just leave them alone. The buggy lane offers a lot of help getting around our Amish neighbors who typically stall out at about 10-12 mph trotting down the highway. Fun fact: the engine of buggies involves an animal with nails holding a metal “U” into their hooves. Fun fact #2: These nails sometimes fall out and rest gently in the car lane of SR-528 for the wheels of non-horse drawn vehicles to “pick up.” God created the universe with its laws of physics and quantum mechanics that allow for cool stuff like gravity, metals, rubber tires, compressed air, and an autobody shop to coexist. Is God to blame for a popped tired from a horseshoe nail on our beloved State Route? When we steer the internal-combustion-engine-wagon – Verbrennungsmotorwagen – over to the buggy lane and await help while horses scoffingly flick their tails past us, should we exclaim: “Why are you doing this to me, God?!”
When grief, tragedy, or a “blah” day hits we might be tempted to think: (1) God made everything and sustains everything, (2) this situation is “in His omnipotent Hands,” (3) nothing happens without God’s approval, THEREFORE (4) God is doing this to me. It’s at that moment we mistake power for control and mistake permission with approval. Without getting into a messy theological diatribe, let me sum up my counter to the four-point diamond above by saying: things happen that God the Father doesn’t want to have happen ALL THE TIME. Do you mind if I give you an example? Awesome. Here’s one: (i) sin. People sin. You’ve sinned. I’ve sinned. We all need a Savior. (His name is Jesus Christ). God did not invent sin nor does He promote sin and He definitely does not approve of sin. This means that, although God is all-powerful, God the Father chose to give a certain amount of liberty to creation, liberty that can be freedom for excellence or liberality towards perdition. God’s will is not always done, e.g. sin. HORSESHOE NAIL, TIRE SITUATION: God did not flick the nail into the way of your tire because He wanted to “teach you a lesson;” just because the event took place does not mean it was/is God’s will. God made Himself vulnerable to the schismatic rupturing of peaceful charity that’s possible with misguided rational mammals bipedaling across the crust of a dusty rock orbiting a sun. This is hard to understand if we think of God as a puppet master pulling the strings of, well, everything. But it makes a lot more sense if you take the name Jesus gave God the Father, Father, seriously. Ostensibly, parents are “in charge” of their home. Here’s my question: Do parents have “control” of what happens in the home? To a certain extent, yes-ish-not-really-sometimes-once. But, to a large degree they don’t. If Jesus calls God his Father, can that tell us a little more about the nail-in-tire situation? I think it can.
What kind of father is God the Father? It’s Bible time. First, can you imagine Jesus tossing a nail in front of someone’s tire as they’re responsibly driving the speed limit down 528 with the car behind them gladly remaining several car lengths back in a very chill manner? I can’t. I’ve read the Gospels over and over again and I can’t picture Jesus doing something harmful like that to anyone, no matter what a driver gets from 1-10 on the responsible driving meter. Jesus did not harm people, he healed them. Jesus did not kill people, he raised dead people back to life (SEVERAL TIMES, btw). He never gave anyone leprosy; he always cleansed them of the disease even if they remained ungrateful (Lk. 17:11-19). When we “see” Jesus minister in the Gospels, we witness something extraordinary and unique: “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (NRSV, Hebrews 1:3). This means that when we “see” Jesus doing good we are witnessing the very character of God the Father. If Jesus wouldn’t do it, then neither would God the Father. Here’s another verse that sums up the goodness of God the Father: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). If it’s not a good gift, then it’s not from God (see Luke 11:9-13). This does not mean that God sits back and does nothing when evils afflict us.
What we see through Jesus Christ is the perfect and good Gift from the Father of lights. Jesus Christ is God the Father’s response to sin, death, disease, and hell-bound demons. God doesn’t give cancer, God offers eternal life through Jesus Christ and healing now and/or in the ultimate experience of heaven wherein no cancer exists. Instead of trying to figure out why God “did” something or “allowed” something evil to happen, what if we began to think this way: “Heavenly Father, I know you are good and every good gift comes from you. You gave Jesus to me to rescue me and save me for eternal life. Reveal to me the good you are working in this moment and help me, by your Holy Spirit, to cooperate with Jesus Christ in bringing about the good you seek even now. Amen.” This does not mean grief hurts less, nor does it wash away the pain of diseases or the confusion of tragedy. What it does mean is that we start placing the blame where it belongs: horseshoe nails. We don’t need to waste time blaming God when bad things happen, because God is already getting out ahead of us to do good, bring healing, mercy, and new hopes; that’s what God is doing.
In the book of Revelation, John receives a vision of Jesus seated on the Throne stating that a new heaven and a new earth is established in his power where death no longer happens nor suffering nor pain, and every tear is wiped away (Rev. 21:1-5). Couple this with the prayer Jesus himself taught us, the Our Father, and see what happens. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven is the place where the will of the Trinity is accomplished perfectly. If all disease, sorrow, pain, fear, worry, sin and death are done away with in heaven, and Jesus asks us to pray for the Father’s heavenly will to breakthrough into earth, then why would we assume God would approve of evil happening to us? The Father is busy about good things. We can let go of the “why are you doing this to us/me God?" and shift to looking in faith for where Jesus Christ is on the move with the Holy Spirit bringing about victory.
Keep an eye out for horseshoe nails. And God bless our Amish neighbors.
Fr. Jacob Bearer is a Catholic priest. He's about 6' to 6'4'' tall depending on which Convenient Store he's exiting. Although he enjoys kidney beans in chili, Fr. Jacob does not like baked beans and counts this as one of the toughest blotches on his character. He's been the administrator of SS. Edward's and Lucy's since January of 2022. Thank God for the Hatchery...this is a place where the author can share thoughts and ideas that don't quite seem right for the bulletin and won't exactly make for a homily (except for the times when the homily is posted with a sound file or used for a blog post). God bless you...and the hatchery.
SS. Edward & Lucy Parish
Office Phone: (440) 548-3812
Office Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
16150 Center St.
Parkman, Ohio 44080
16280 East High St.
Middlefield, Ohio 44062
SS. Edward & Lucy Parish
P.O. Box 709
Parkman, Ohio 44080