Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
“Worried? Trust in Jesus.” The billboard sign loomed above the highway, displaying a man’s face buried in his hands with a 1-800 number to call. As I drove by, I thought to myself, “This isn’t religion. This is therapeutic psychology!” Today’s lectionary readings make me reconsider my hasty dismissal.
For the God revealed today is very much concerned with our burdens. This is a God who sees and hears the cries of the children of Israel in slavery, and who sends Moses down to Egypt to be a messenger and mediator of divine liberation. This is a God who comes to us in Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who offers much-needed rest to the laboring and the struggling. It is no wonder that the Christian gospel has always resonated most among the poor, the vulnerable, and the beat-down inhabitants of our suffering world.
There is one important caveat, though. The billboard Jesus can border on a “slot machine God.” Worried? Call this number, and God will fix it. But the God of Exodus reminds us that prayer is never quite so tidy. In the ancient world, naming something implied control over it. YHWH makes it clear in Exodus that things don’t work that way with him. God identifies as I AM WHO AM, the One who exists before all else, and the One who will exist long after I am not. Our God is not a pagan deity that I invoke to do my bidding. God will act on God’s terms and in God’s time.
God cares deeply for God’s people. Yet we do not control God, nor do we control our future. In today’s gospel, Jesus offers us a chance to let go of our illusion of control, exercising a healthy detachment from the anxieties and worries that can tyrannize our thoughts. We entrust ourselves not to a certain future, but to a loving and liberating God who will remember his covenant forever.