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10TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: "WHERE ARE YOU?"

After Adam had eaten the forbidden tree, God called him with the question, “Where are you?” Adam’s response, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." Life is not the same for Adam any longer. He hides. Not only that, he points fingers at the wife, indirectly denying responsibilities. The larger narrative of this encounter goes beyond Adam. It is the origin of humanity’s woundedness that makes all of us victims of original sin. Placed between God’s will and our will, the tendency becomes to choose the latter. Consequences follow from such, regrets and blames constantly dragging our lives from God's loving mercy. We become isolated in our brokenness. The message from this encounter is for us to step back and examine our priorities as men and women of faith.

 

Jesus’ family and the will of God

The gospel presents this beautiful, yet often strange picture of Jesus on arriving his hometown. Mark writes:

“His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

 

St. Mark highlights the meaning of spiritual relationships in Jesus’ life, even more than biological connections. Jesus does not disown his mother, nor does he ask us to do so with our families. Jesus teaches us to identify the importance of building spiritual connections. In the passage above, he constitutes his new family; those who do the will of God.

 

In Adam’s case, Adam disobeys God by pursuing his own will. The garden of Eden is that beautiful, perfect circle around God’s temple. Yet, Adam takes himself out of that circle by his failure to prioritize God’s choice. Adam pleases biological ties over spiritual connections, "The woman whom you put here with me— she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." Jesus reverses this order. Spiritual ties must trump physical and biological relationships, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Our families are important, but they must lead us towards accomplishing the divine will.

 

Taking off the Talkative Lizard on our shoulders

G.K. Chesterton wrote about the talkative lizard grafted onto the shoulder of a man and an angel who came to heal this man. The story was particularly a representation of the struggle with the vice of lust, but on a broader note, an illustration of the fear of change which confronts humanity in general. The lizard rants in the man’s ear. Each time the angel raises his fiery hands to remove the lizard, the man hesitates. The man becomes afraid, asking the angel whether taking off the lizard will hurt him. The angel concurs that it will hurt, but assures the man of a better life after. The man is afraid of unforeseen discomfort and refuses to give his consent to the angel. The lizard becomes a part of his life, yet constantly nagging him. The lizard causes him suffering, but he cannot imagine his life without the lizard.

 

Dr. Matthew Breuninger (Finding Freedom in Christ, 2022) analyzes this man as it applies to human experiences, “Are we not like the man with the lizard? We don’t know what to expect from the process of healing other than discomfort. The thought of facing our demons without some assurance of what lies on the other side makes us wary to try. Even worse, what if after all of our hard work we don’t feel any better?” I feel like Adam feared having to let God take off his lizard, so he went into denial and got stuck. Adam hid himself in his wounds and got lost in the process.

 

Where are you?

Imagine God asking you this question right at this moment. Where are you in relation to your faith and everything going on in your life? The important lesson from Adam is that this question came at the time of great struggle. Experience has shown that most people lose their faith during trials and struggles (physical, emotional, spiritual). They begin to hide. They allow imaginations to prompt their relationship with God. The question is mostly, “What would God be thinking of me?” This takes people off the faith track as the ego becomes louder -shame, guilt, abuse, addiction, failures, fears -these begin to alienate the individual from the love of God. The more we isolate ourselves from God, the more we insulate ourselves from his love.

 

Gallup’s most recent survey found 81% of Americans expressing belief when asked the simple question, "Do you believe in God?" The survey shows that this was down from 87% in 2017 and a record low for this question first asked in 1944, when 96% believed. The data showed that this reached a high of 98% in the 1950s and 1960s. I can bet you, this is a global phenomenon and not just an American problem. Many people are running away from God.

 

Why this downward faith slope? Possibly, some persons would prefer to have their lizards on their shoulders chittering and chattering than to make the move for change. Some would prefer staying stuck in their wounds. The truth is that like Adam, we all carry wounds that need healing. Hence, Christ says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

 

When God asks, “Where are you?” he is not calling you out to be spanked or punished. He is presenting his mercy. When God asks, “Where are you?” he is opening the doors up for healing. When God asks, “Where are you?, he is initiating you into his everlasting love and peace. God already shows up in the sacraments waiting for each of us, what Pope Francis once described as the church’s mission. God is readily healing the wounds of our hearts, opening doors, liberating and revealing his goodness. Pope Francis reminds us, “God forgives all, that God is Father, that God is gentle, that God always waits for us.”

 

Dear believers, rather than act like Adam with excuses, we can say with the Psalm, “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will” (Ps. 40:7-8).


READINGS: 1ST- GEN. 3:2-15; 2ND- 2 COR. 4:13-5:1; GOSPEL- MK. 3:20-35

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