Providential cycles

It is sometimes scary how providential the preselected biblical readings are for Mass. One aim of the 20th century liturgical reform was to open more lavishly the treasures of the Bible over a set cycle of years to remind believers of God’s guidance in history and today.

A two-year cycle of weekday first readings is provided while a three-year cycle exists for Sunday readings. If we attend Mass every Sunday for three years and follow the daily readings over two years, every book and nearly 90 percent of the Scriptures will have been exposed.

The Holy Spirit’s guiding hand is obvious in these cycles. On Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, 10 years after our nation was attacked, the Church observed the 24th Sunday of the liturgical year. The prescribed readings for that Mass included a selection from the Gospel of Matthew in which St. Peter approaches Jesus and asks Him how often a disciple must forgive an offender.

What a message to ponder on such an awful anniversary. On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, a madman entered the Emanuel AME faith community in Charleston, sat for an hour, and then took the lives of nine innocent people, including a pastor-senator who was also the father of two young children.

The following Sunday — Father’s Day — the Church observed the 12th Sunday of the liturgical year. On that day, the biblical texts presented the Apostles asking Jesus and Job asking God our question: “do You know what you’re doing; don’t You care what’s happening to the innocent?!”

God simply responds like Jesus, “don’t you have faith?; were you there when I tamed the chaos of early creation?” Religion is not so much about answers as it is about increasing trust.

Relatives of the victims already extended their forgiveness to the perpetrator. Already the gentle hand by which God guides His creation to its ultimate perfection is visible.

In the 20th century holocaust, Jews, Christians, those attracted to members of the same gender, women, children and others were exterminated. This gave rise to the questions posed by Job, the Apostles and all of us. When the allies stumbled upon the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, they found a handwritten prayer next to the body of an innocent child.

The prayer read in part, “O Lord, remember the men and woman of good will and those of ill will. Do not remember all of the suffering they inflicted. Instead remember the fruits we have borne: our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by You, let these fruits be their forgiveness.”

God still speaks to and guides His people. When every heart is transformed by the Word of Christ just as the eucharistic bread and wine is, then providence will not be scary. Instead we will see God has been working the entire time. Everyone who has ever doubted has been wrong.