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Father Muench Says...

Reflecting on the God of surprises

October 28, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I would like to take some time today to talk with you about God, the God of surprises. I have been thinking about this often this week. It all began when I came upon a video on YouTube, a talk presented by Brother David Steindl-Rast. I truly find all of this talks on spirituality very rewarding. Brother David is a Benedictine monk who is now 90 years of age. I truly find his talks are becoming more impressive as he is getting older. I hope that happens for me. Brother David’s talk was about the God of Surprises.

This past week, I was talking with some young people. They were around college age. The subject of our conversation touched on personal spirituality and life. So, I mentioned to them some ideas I picked up from Brother David’s talk. The God of surprises made some sense to them. For people of faith, there are many times in a day when we come upon unique opportunities to accomplish something good and holy to do. I suggested that the Lord brings into our lives the surprises that we least expect at these times of opportunity. God always put us in the right place at the right time. And I further believe that God gives us the right words to use. I truly believe this.

I believe in God’s influence in my life as a priest often. Truly, almost every day I have discovered that the Lord leads and guides me with love and peace and with his surprises. I am constantly surprised when something or someone leads me to do something unplanned –something that truly makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Often, my preparation for a homily for a Mass will be changed or redone. The Lord seems to find a way to reach out to me with something better and more meaningful. So, you see I always give my God credit for the words that turn up in my homilies. I pray before and after a homily in gratitude for the Lord’s gift of the right words. I guarantee you that I am so surprised at the message the Lord guides me to present.

I believe and hope that you recognize such experiences in your day – those times when God has touched your life, those challenges and opportunities that truly come from the Lord, those gifts that make you a better person. I am certain that all too often they are surprises.

Let me tell you of one such experience: I remember all too well times when anger has taken over my life, and the Lord has truly stepped in and sent me someone or led me to do something to discover a better, more loving attitude. I know it was from the Lord, because it all comes to me as a complete surprise.

Finally, I want to suggest here that many of the teachings of Jesus are surprising – surprises to many in Jesus’ time and even now to us. Let me suggest a one such: Jesus uses his stories to make clear the love of God. For example, the story of the Lost Sheep. You remember story, I am certain. Jesus tells a story about the Good Shepherd, which may seem to be a bit surprising. The Good Shepherd leaves many sheep to go in search for the one lost sheep. Here, Jesus teaches us the value of the individual. The point Jesus is making is this: every person is important and precious to God. All the more so if that person is lost. God will love that person more, not less.

Jesus came to save us all by his death and resurrection. However, this God of surprises makes it very clear that it is important the he comes for each of us, that he is more than willing to take the time to search even for just one lost sheep, and he will not leave a lost sheep unnoticed.

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