Sunday, March 8, 2009  “Let Go – Let God!”

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen

When I was in the fifth grade in my home parish, I began to serve at Mass. The Mass was said at the main altar. There were etchings on the altar. On the one side was Melchidesek offering his sacrifice to God; on the other side was an etching of Abraham about to slaughter his son Isaac. I often pondered that scene; there was Isaac, with his hands tied and blindfolded, and there was Abraham with a large knife. There was an angel however that had grasped his hand – and there was another angle protecting Isaac and pointing towards a bush where a ram was caught by his horns.  The message of that etching was that God wanted Abraham to sacrifice the ram rather than his beloved son.  We just read that story from Genesis this morning; that God put Abraham to the test. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son in the land of Moriah. On their journey, Abraham probably did not say much, but Isaac asked what the sacrifice would be as they had the wood but where is the animal to sacrifice. Abraham thought God would provide.

God was trying to test Abraham’s faith and generosity. God tested Abraham on several occasions before this but He had never before asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. Abraham did not have the son until he was 100 years old. In those days, people believed that you went out of existence if you did not have prodigy. That was their understanding – that everyone went to the same place after death.

God also often tests our generosity. Several years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the book, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People”. Kushner was a Rabbi who was struggling. He had a son who was born with a rare disease that speeded up the aging process. By the time the boy was six years old, he was shaving. By the time he was eight years old, he was already feeling the effects of old age.  At age ten, he was losing teeth. And by the age of fourteen, he died of old age.  Kushner tried to comprehend this; he asked God why did he need to give his son to death through old age? He felt hurt; he felt cheated; he felt angry. But then Kushner determined that God was testing his generosity. God tested Kushner to see if he would love that son, take care of that son and be faithful to God.

During the season of Lent, God is testing our generosity. Lenten observance should be much more than self-denial. If we think that if we deny ourselves of cigarettes or beer or pop, or whatever, then God delights in us. And while He certainly does, if we get to the end of Lent and then we are proud of ourselves, we need to realize that these things alone won’t teach sanctity. We haven’t surrendered ourselves to God. I would say that if you are young people going to school, your obligation is to study, to play games and exercise – but to also make time for God. Do you pray each day? Do you put your studies up there so high that God never gets the chance to be able to take part in your life? If you put sports right after study, does that move God further down the list? How about you parents? If you have young children, your obligation is to set a good example. Your children learn from your good example – but they also learn from your bad example. For example, if there’s an alcoholic father, the children will say, “When I grow up I don’t want to be like my dad. He’s abusive in his speech; he is easily angered; you have to just get out of his way.”  Alcoholics Anonymous have a saying, “Let Go, Let God.” One of the first steps towards sobriety is to acknowledge there is a higher being. It’s for people of all faiths and people without faith. Finally, they realize there is someone who will help -- and that is God. Sometimes it takes two years for an alcoholic to even make that first step. They finally realize that they cannot recover alone with out help; there is a higher being. “Let Go – Let God!” It’s a great spirituality that occurs -- letting God into their lives.

Let go of malicious gossiping, let go of your control. I remember a couple in my home parish. The husband tried to control the wife; the wife tried to control the husband. The symbol of this was the washcloth on the sink where they did the dishes. The husband made sure that the cloth was in the middle of the sink; the wife wanted it on the side. It was more of an indication of what was going on in their lives. Eventually this couple separated, even though they had been married for 35 years. It would have been better to let go, to allow the other person to be who he or she was. Sometimes when the husband might do the dishes, and he’d place them in the wrong cabinet, the wife would become very upset. There’s a control issue there. If the husband does the dishes, why does he have to do them a certain way? If the wife is driving the car, the husband may be critical. “Look both ways; you turned the corner with a big turn – you’re not turning short enough.”  That’s a control issue. 

So during this season of Lent, we call on God to help us overcome our sins. We cannot do it by ourselves. We acknowledge our need for God’s help to overcome our attempts to be in control.





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