Holy Trinity Sunday / year C
May 21-22, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
This past Wednesday, I was invited to be a speaker at the Ames High School baccalaureate. I tried not to give them parental advice, because they probably already get enough of that. I tried to speak words that may be helpful and hopeful to them, all in eight minutes.
What I really wanted to say to them is what Jesus just said in today's Gospel: "I have much more to tell you, but you can't bear it now." Life is more complex, more difficult, and more beautiful than anyone of us can imagine at 18 years of age.
When Jesus says this in the Gospel, he promises the Spirit of truth who will speak to us when the time is right. What strikes me the most about the Gospel is the incredible, wise, timing of God. When the time is right, he will speak. There is an old saying I once heard: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." For the Lord to work in our life, we need to be ready, to be open, and the timing has to be right.
St. Paul talks about how he became open to God in the second reading. He speaks of the value of affliction and suffering if it leads to hope, a hope that does not disappoint. Life experience brings us to a place where we are truly open to God, and this usually means making mistakes and knowing suffering.
The great author C.S. Lewis once wrote: "We can ignore pleasure, but pain insists on being attended to. God whispers in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Perhaps the reason why God remains theoretical or irrelevant to many today is that we think we are still in control, even when we are not.
So I told the graduates to relax. Answers will come when we are asking the right questions. This takes time, and it usually involves the experience of pain and failure.
This week I was sent a free e-book on online, my first one ever. Actually it was more like an e-pamphlet since it was only 18 pages. It was by Bishop Robert Barron on how to discern God's will in our life. He said that months ago when he became auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez told him to get the app called waze. I have never heard of it, but it gives not only directions, but time of arrival, road closures, traffic jams, and accidents. He was going from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, and the navigator told him to get on the 101 freeway, but then told him to get off. He ended up winding through city streets until she later told him to get back on the 101. At his meeting, he voiced his frustration at this unnecessary detour, and was told that there was a tanker spill on the 101, and his navigator spared him hours of sitting on the freeway.
Bishop Barron says this is similar to listening to the voice of the Lord. Often it is counter-intuitive and at the time does not make sense. We think we know better, and often do it our way because we do not see the obstacle ahead of us. But the Lord does not mind when we take selfish detours, but instead keeps speaking to us and guiding us until we get where we need to be.
He concludes: "When you get lost or perhaps decide that you know better than the navigator she doesn't compel you to return to the route she had originally chosen. She calmly recalculates and determine the best way to get to your goal, given the choice you have made. God indeed has a plan for each of us. He has determined the best way for us to get to our goal, which is full union with Him. But like Israel of old, we all wander from the path, convinced that we are brighter than the Lord of the universe, or perhaps just enamored of asserting our own freedom. But God will never give up on us; rather he reshuffles the deck, recalculates, and set a new course for us." Watch how this happens over and over again in Scripture, and in our lives. "What looks like a complete dead-end turns into a way forward; the wrong path turns, strangely, into the right path."
That is what I hope our graduates learn about the Lord. Jesus says, "I have much more to tell you, but you can't beat it now." That is okay. The Lord has a providential sense of timing. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.