This summer I was at Mass on my birthday and before the lector began reading the first reading Father got up and said, “I just want to warn you, this is not an easy reading. God is angry in this reading and you will see His anger towards His people. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” No lie, I sat there a little scared. I’ve read the Bible enough times to know that God can get pretty upset from time to time, though this priest’s warning still had me worried. Selfishly, it was my birthday and I wanted some nice readings from God, not an angry God.
Then, even after the scary God had shown His anger in this reading, something beautiful happened. The entire congregation responded, “Thanks be to God.” Simple, yes, I know. We respond to every reading that way. But there was something about our response that struck me that day. Even when God is angry or upset we still respond with thanksgiving and thankful hearts. Thanks be to God that He was angry because underneath that anger is a love whose depths we will never fully comprehend. Then I think of the Gospel readings, the ones that challenge us to take up our crosses, die to ourselves, sell all of our possessions, on and on and even then we respond, “Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!” Even when the words are hard to hear we are trained to respond with praise and thankfulness. Or…at least we are trained to respond that way to the readings in Mass.
Think about it, these are responses that we have known since we were children. They didn’t change with the new translation of the Mass, they are a constant in our Eucharistic celebrations. As I thought about this basic response more I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why isn’t this our usual response when God speaks to us?” How many times must He call our names before we respond, let alone respond with a thankful heart? In my own life, He has to call a lot. And I almost never immediately respond with a thankful heart or with praise. Sometimes I do, but more often than not my response is a hardened heart. I can recall a few examples in my life where I felt as though God was calling me to let go and I responded with a stubborn heart, a cold shoulder, and on occasion I’ve even responded by simply telling Him, “No way, Jose!” Thankful heart? I think not.
So then we have a challenge before us: respond to God’s call, to His words – whether in Scripture, in prayer, or in life – with a thankful heart and with praise of His Name. Thanks be to God that He continues to call us, even when we don’t respond with joy or excitement. Thanks be to God that He continues to give us opportunities to soften our hearts to Him, to His love and to His plans for our lives. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever…and hopefully the next time You call!