Sunday: Risk More, Like God

The French Catholic poet Charles Peguy, in his poem “Abandonment,” imagines God complaining about people who don’t sleep because they get too caught up in their thoughts and worries.

In the poem, God argues that he always gives them their daily bread so they ought to stop worrying and trust him.

“He who abandons himself, I love. He who does not abandon himself, I don’t love,” he says. “That’s simple enough.”

Then he states the paradox: “He who abandons himself does not abandon himself, and he is the only one who does not abandon himself.”

To fail to trust God means you must always be picking at and fussing over your life, putting you front and center in your thoughts.

To trust God means to hand your life over to him, and allow it to be rich and full. That’s the better way to live.

This Sunday’s Gospel is the passage that drove Peguy’s poem. Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”

The Suffering Servant in the first reading from Isaiah learns what that means. He speaks of being beaten, spit on, and his beard pulled out. And yet, he can say, “Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.”

The voice in the Psalm also understands. The Psalm can proudly proclaim, “I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” But that was only because, as he put it, “I was brought low, and he saved me.”

The more we risk for our faith, the greater the fulfillment we receive.

This is the way it always is with God. The Father gives all to his “beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Son gives all to the Holy Spirit who “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” The Holy Spirit gives all to us, speaking through the prophets and acting through the Church.

This is the Divine logic of self-gift, and it is the opposite of human logic.

Once Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord teaches him what that will entail. “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.”

In other words, being the Christ, as the son of the living God, means giving everything.

When Peter objects, Jesus tells him “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

“Thinking as God does” — abandoning oneself to God’s will — is not easy.

We may not like to admit it, but we are more often like the Christians in Sunday’s second reading who profess our faith, but fail to act on it.

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ‘ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” asks James.

Many of us are concerned for others, in a very Christian way — but we don’t take the hard step of putting our lives, our money, our efforts into service.

We hold on to our life instead. We don’t want to give it away. But that is a sure way to lose it, because that selfishness is a betrayal of who we are: Men and women made in the image and likeness of the self-giving God.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.