Today’s Word gives us an opportunity to reflect on “God’s Providence.” Simply put, the same God who gave being to the world continues to govern its affairs, including yours and mine. When this reality of “providence” comes to mind, “obedience” is immediately associated. But may I suggest the word “creativity?” John Macquarrie sums it up well:
“Faith in providence asserts that creativity has a positive character…Creativity is not just a random creativity, or one that might be overcome by dissolution and annihilation, or even halted and held steady by these. Rather it is an ordered movement into fuller and richer kinds of being. Faith in providence asserts this definitive movement in the creation, an overcoming of deficiency and distortions and a fuller realizing of potentialities…” (Principles of Christian Theology, p. 219)
Yes, God’s Providence is evident in King David, whose family history is complicated, pathetic, sordid, brilliant and successful, yet burdened with blotches of adultery and homicide in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah. Now confronted with a son in revolt and seeking his life, David advises restraint (that the clansman related to Saul should not be executed for cursing David) and he attributes the situation to God’s Providence. He declares, “Let him alone and let him curse for the Lord has told me to. Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curse he is uttering this day.” (2 Sam. 16:12) God’s Providence shows itself in this “crazy” incident whereby Jesus encounters a demoniac, “man out of the tombs,” a “legion” of evil spirits inside of him. “No one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountain he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.” (Mk. 5:5) Jesus meets this chaotic reality with patience and compassion, and the man ends up sitting calmly, fully clothed and in his right mind. But, evil looks for evil. Among the native Jewish Gerasene people, the Gentile influence had them earn a living in a manner that was against Jewish law, herding swine. “Legion” begs Jesus “not to send them out of the country.” So Jesus gave them permission, and the “unclean spirit came out and entered some 2000 swine who rushed into the sea and were drowned. Take a moment to ponder this whole scene, including Jesus sending the restored man back to his home territory and to the Decapolis to publicly announce what Jesus had done for him, and, Jesus being asked to leave the region, which he did.
Can I recommit in prayer today my trust and cooperation in the Will and guidance from God? St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter; “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.” (The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, Ed. Elizabeth F. Rogers)
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.