3rd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 20, 2022
Funny story that I have heard before. A couple has two mischievous boys, ages 8 and 10, who were always into trouble, both at home and around town. The mother of the boys heard that a local priest had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her two boys. The priest agreed and asked to see them individually.
The 8 year old went first, in the morning. The older boy was to see the priest in the afternoon. The priest, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Where is God?”
The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response. The priest repeated the question, “Where is God?” Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. So, the priest raised his voice some more and shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “Where is God?”
The boy screamed and bolted from the room. He ran home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his brother found him in the closet, he asked “What happened?” The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, “We are in real Big trouble this time! God is missing, and they think we did it!
Where is God???
Our basic Catholic catechism would say, “God is everywhere.” For God is infinite spirit, not something in the universe, rather God embraces the entire universe. So, we can say that God is everywhere.
But, people are more likely asking a slightly different question. Where can I find God?
What advice or suggestion would you give someone who was asking, where can I find God?
We just heard the story of Moses encountering God in the burning bush. God calls him closer but tells him to remove his sandals from his feet for he was standing on holy ground. He experienced the transcendence of God, that he was on holy ground, this required that he show deep reverence. When Moses asks God by what name he is called, God’s response is “I am who I am.” God has no name since God is beyond our control, remains a mystery to us. Where do we experience holy ground, where do we experience the holy one calling us to deep reverence?
In the Incarnation, God took on flesh and blood, came as one of us. In Jesus, it is revealed that each human being is holy ground. If we are to find God, we need to be able to recognize the image of God through our fellow human beings. It is for this reason that St. John Paul II in an encyclical once defined Christianity in this way, “Christianity is an attitude of amazement at the dignity of the human being.” Jesus reveals the deep mystery and dignity of the human being.
In the Gospel today, a crowd comes to Jesus and are wondering about a group of Galileans who were killed in a brutal way by Pilate and about another group who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them. Jesus is clear that they were not any worse than others, not greater sinners than the others.
Our human tendency is to see God as a God of vengeance, wanting to punish human beings, ready to condemn. When bad things happen in this life we wonder if it is punishment from God, if we deserved some bad thing that happened to us. Jesus rejects this as a false vision of God.
When bad things happen to us or others, we do not see that as punishment from God. God does not desire to punish, to condemn, to harm us. God is like the gardener who asks for more time, wants to work on the ground to help the tree to produce fruit. It is the merciful patience of God.
Moses took his sandals off at the burning bush, for he was on holy ground. We should symbolically take our shoes off in the presence of one another, for in the presence of another human being, we are on holy ground. We should treat each human being as holy, with care and reverence. Including yourself. Fundamental to our Christian faith is the dignity of the human being. This approach should guide how we see everything in our life, including our politics, our economic views, our way of seeing all that is happening in our society and world.
If we truly saw the dignity of each human being, if we treated each human being as holy ground, how would we see the following issues today? Capital Punishment, our prison systems, abortion, what type of economy we promote, poverty. As we watch what is happening in the Ukraine, the refugees, those facing bombs and violence, does this reflect the dignity of human beings, does it see them as holy ground?
Where is God? God is everywhere. Where will I find God? Only when I recognize that I am on holy ground before each human being I face.
Before each person you encounter, you should hear God speaking to you, “remove your sandals from your feet, for you are on holy ground.” We will only find God if we are able to recognize holy ground before our fellow human beings.