Monday, February 29, 2016
Last week I had my heart set on a round of golf planned for Friday. Yes, a round of golf. In February. In Canada. The only place it is possible even to imagine such a thing is where I happened to find myself - Victoria, BC. The Bishops of Western and Northern Canada were gathered in that city for our annual meeting. A few of us usually try - not always successfully - to add a day for some golf. Alas, it was not to be. The weather forecast announced rain for that day. Rats.
I waffled over whether to trust that forecast. The temptation to stay and chance it was, I admit, rather strong. After all, forecasts are sometimes wrong. However, weather predictions are now based on increasingly sophisticated technology that enables the observations of atmospheric developments and trends. Forecasts increase in accuracy as a result and can largely be trusted. So I made the decision to trust the forecast and came home to Edmonton Thursday night.
The readings we heard on Sunday from Sacred Scripture announce a different - and far more important - type of forecast. This one is based on centuries of observation not of atmospheric patterns that govern the weather but of relational ones that shape human life. The reading from Exodus (3: 1-8a, 13-15) contains the first divine announcement to Moses of God's concern for his suffering people. God is the author of life and knows that we are fully dependent upon him for all things. Therefore, he is attentive to our every need. When we cry out to him, he hears and answers. God relates to us, his creatures, with tender mercy and steadfast love. This is an unchanging pattern.
For our part, observation of our behaviour patterns shows clearly that we are not so steadfast in our relationship with God. Ever since that piece of fruit was fatefully plucked from the tree by Adam and Eve, we have demonstrated a tendency not to rely upon God but to go it on our own - with entirely predictable results. Time and time again, self-reliance has led to problems, to put it mildly.
These observations lead to the forecast announced by Jesus in the Gospel: "Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did." Unless you repent ... Repentance is a decision to give up all illusion of self-reliance and the sin it engenders and to turn back to trusting dependence upon the wisdom and providence of God. Refusal of such repentance, that is, the stubborn persistence in the eclipsing of God from all deliberations shaping my life and that of others, leads to a "perishing". This is not a question of divine retribution for sin. It is the simple truth that, like a plant separated from water, the one who chooses self over God soon withers and dies.
"Unless you repent..." This forecast is brought to us by the very Word of God. It is, therefore, unfailingly accurate. Let's be sure to trust in it and act accordingly.