God's Unexpected Communications with us

Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

A wealthy American was being shown around the Vatican and as the Pope was in Castel Gandolfo he was taken into the Pope’s private apartment. On the Pontiff’s desk he noticed a gold telephone and was told that it was a direct line to God. When he asked if he could use it he was told that it would cost a half million dollars. He didn’t call. He stopped in Ireland on the way back to America and visited the parish where his ancestors came from. He stopped by the Pastor to check the parish registers and while there he noticed that the Pastor also had a golden telephone on his desk. Again he was told that it was a direct line to God and when he asked how much a call would cost he was told 12 pennies for three minutes. The stunned American said they wanted to charge him a half million dollars in the Vatican. “Yes” said the priest, “but over here it is just a local call.” (I do not know the source of this story.)

If only communicating with God were as easy for us as picking up the phone and dialing his number. On the other hand does God ever try to communicate with you? Does God phone you? God communicates with us every day. The question is, “Do we listen?” Radio stations are broadcasting 24 hours a day. But we need to tune our radio into the station to pick up the signal. God communicates with us every day too, if we make the effort to tune in. To use the words of today’s Gospel, we need to be dressed for action with our lamps lit. (Luke 12:35)

Sometimes God communicates in ways we would not expect. In today's Gospel Jesus said, “You too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40) God calls at unexpected times but also in unexpected ways. Sister Briege McKenna recalls that when she was only 14 years and her mother died it was the catalyst that made her think about entering the convent. Later Briege was suffering from crippling arthritis which ran in her family. She had it since she was 18 years old and one day 7 years after getting the disease she was in a charismatic prayer group when she felt a hand on her shoulder. There was no one sitting behind her or beside her. She noticed a power going down through her and her feet straightened out. Since then she has been traveling the world praying for healing for others. These are two examples from her life in which God came suddenly and unexpectedly.

For most of us, God does not come to us so dramatically but nevertheless we sense God’s presence. I was amazed at the large number of people all over the country who felt God speak during the storm on Christmas Eve (1998) which left much of the country without power during the Christmas season (1998). Sometimes God can come unexpectedly in ways that we would never expect. Strangely some people realized with the benefit of hindsight, that when they were aware of their sinfulness and weakness and being abandoned by God, that they were in fact being visited by God. St. John of the Cross said the cause of such discomfort is that God is flooding the soul. He said when the light is not shining the cobwebs (sinfulness) are not seen, but when the light (God) is turned on then everything, even what is unpleasant, becomes visible. He also said this is like a nurse (God) bringing bitter medicine (awareness of sinfulness) to the soul, and the medicine is needed to get better. Also strangely another way in which God  has come unexpectedly to some is when painful things from their past surfaced again which they thought had been healed. This is an opportunity to receive the grace of even more healing from God and freedom from these events. Also strangely some say that another way in which God comes unexpectedly is when they experience what they call a mid-life crisis. They are not referring to something physical in the body because it happens to both men and women but they say that during that time everything they trusted in disappears. During that time their securities vanish or are shown up to be useless and they learn to trust in God in a new deeper way. For them it really is moving from false gods to the One True God.

Radio stations are broadcasting but we must tune in our radio to pick up the signal.  God communicates with us every day if we have the ears to hear.  Sometimes God communicates with us in unexpected ways.  Are you open to God speaking to you?  Jesus said in the Gospel, “You too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40) “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Nineteenth Sunday Year C

Lamps lit for Jesus

Passover Expectation of the Messiah, the Eucharist and the Easter Vigil 2010