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God of Surprises

God of Surprises

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Jesus redefines the temple. Jesus’ body is the true temple. Jesus says to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days’ (v.19). The true temple will be destroyed, but God will rebuild it again in three days, through the resurrection. They are surprised and cannot understand this – they ask Jesus how on earth he thinks he can rebuild this temple in a mere three days. But John adds, ‘the temple he had spoken of was his body’ (v.21).

For this reason, the Pope explained, Jesus defined them as an “evil generation”, inasmuch as “they did not understand that the law they protected and loved was a pedagogy toward Jesus Christ”. Indeed, “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ, does not bring us close to Jesus Christ, it is dead”. And this is why Jesus scolds the members of that generation “for being closed, for being incapable of recognizing the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises, for not being on a journey toward the Lord’s triumphant finale”, to the point “that when he explains it, they think it is blasphemy”. Thank you, dear Lord, for your amazing grace. Thank you for blessing Zechariah with a son, in spite of his unbelief. Thank you for blessing me so richly even though I am often reticent to trust you. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of Zebulun, according to its clans. Allotment for Issachar My husband will tell you that he just wanted to spend time with me and figured that if that meant having to go to church to do it, then he would endure it. He’ll also tell you what a surprise it was to him that we didn’t just kneel and chant Latin stuff for hours on end. He actually enjoyed it, and he’s been going to Mass with me ever since. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali, according to its clans. Allotment for DanChapter Eleven focuses on the passion and resurrection of Christ. Faulty understanding of these two important events in Christ’s life contribute to producing a distorted image of God and deter us from our spiritual journey. So it is with life and work. The only certainty is change, and change always comes as a surprise. We may be able to predict that change is coming, but we can't predict the details of its unfolding. The good surprises that God sends are often commonplace and ordinary. Unfortunately, we don't allow them to surprise us. Instead, we live in dread of the bad surprises. We want to anticipate them somehow, to be one step ahead, to be in control.

In his reflection, the Pope then turned to the passage from the first Book of Samuel. “Saul, God’s chosen one, God’s anointed, had forgotten that God is surprise and newness. He had forgotten it. He was enclosed in his thoughts and plans. And so he reasoned in a human way. The Lord said to him: utterly destroy all that they have”. However, as the Pope explained, the custom “whenever anyone conquered, was to take the spoils” to divide them; “and a part of the spoils was used to offer sacrifice”. Saul had therefore selected several beautiful animals for the Lord: “he reasoned according to his own thoughts, according to his heart, enclosed in his habits. And God, our God, is not a God of habits, he is a God of surprises”.

This is a dangerous book. It will change you, if you let it, for it is all about the challenge of becoming another Christ. Buy it if you dare! They had perfectly organized the law, a masterpiece. All of the Jews knew what one could do, what one could not do, how far they could go. Everything was organized. And they were safe there." The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid. 11 Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. 12 It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. 14 There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. 15 Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How has God surprised you in your life? How have you responded to these surprises? Have you ever responded like Zechariah? How can you be more open to what God wants to do in and through you? Hughes’s own spiritual hunger was not satisfied, however, by ministering to others and in 1983 he left to embark on the process of introspection in first Ireland, then the Isle of Skye, that led him two years later to publish his best-known book, God of Surprises. It was a word-of-mouth success. He described God of Surprises as “a guidebook for the inner journey in which we are all engaged”. If Gerard Hughes had expressed during the Inquisition what he'd written here, he would surely have been branded a heretic. Hughes openly challenges many of the most commonly-observed pillars of organized religion but productively offers solutions for churches progressing with the times to serve modern humanity.The point of a ‘freewill offering’ was that there was no condition placed on the sacrifice. David did not say that he would only offer a sacrifice if God rescued him. Regardless of the outcome, he resolved to praise the Lord for his goodness. A heart that loves the law, for the law is God’s”, but “which also loves God’s surprises”, for his “holy law is not an end in itself”: it is a journey, “a teaching which leads us to Jesus Christ”. Pope Francis called us to ask the Lord for this in prayer, during Mass at the Chapel of Santa Marta.

Whitney Balliett authored a marvelous book on jazz titled The Sound of Surprise. In it, he talks about the unpredictability of jazz. With jazz, the listener never knows what's coming next—the rhythms, the harmonies, the improvs—and this unpredictability makes it exciting. Jazz always seems to surprise us.Fr Gerard blends the institutional, critical and mystical elements of ourselves, so as to clear the way to the field of our inner experience in which our treasure lies hidden. No wonder, then, that he suggests writing your own faith autobiography, as a means of getting into the mystery of being alive in God’s love. One of my favorite surprises from God came while I was dating the man who would later become my husband. He had called me one day to set up a date, and in scheduling I mentioned I had to get to Mass that day first. When he responded that he’d love to go with me, I was speechless (I am never speechless, though many of my friends surely wish that I was). We hadn’t been dating long, but I did know this was not a guy who had set foot in a Catholic Church. What on earth was this guy up to? I was suspicious, but something inside me told me to let him come. After all, I couldn’t tell him he couldn’t come to church, right?

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