16 September 2008

God the Visitor

In today's Gospel we hear the townspeople's reaction to the miraculous healing of the widow's son. The crowd proclaims that "God has visited his people." For Christians, it is not hard to see the larger context which points toward the approaching death and resurrection of our Lord. In the "smaller picture," however, the townspeople tell us something insightful in their reaction to the miracle they witnessed: it is easy to forget that God is always with his people.
Surely the crowd's reaction is one of joy -- at the widow's grief consoled, of surprise -- at the Lord's power over death and, possibly, of fear. One can almost get a sense of the crowd looking toward God because God answered their prayers (or, at least the prayers of the widow of Nain). There is a temptation to use the word "miracle" only when the God does our will: when our prayers are answered. Is it no less a miracle when we do His will? Sometimes it means accepting the circumstances that befall us -- those things which we cannot change -- the vicissitudes of daily life that St. Francis de Sales so aptly named God's permissive will. God indeed visits his people: always. God is always with his people; it is for us to accept the reality that His ways are not always our ways, but He is no less with us amid suffering than He is amid consolation. If anything, our suffering affords us a space in which to welcome Him even closer.
"Now, whatever we accept simply because it is God's will is acceptable in His Sight, so long as we accept it heartily and out of love:—the less of self the more of God — and a single-hearted acceptance of God's will purifies any suffering very greatly."
St. Francis de Sales

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