“GOD WRITES STRAIGHT WITH CROOKED LINES”
First Reading: Acts 16:22-34
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 137(138):1-3,7-8
Gospel Reading: John 16:5-11
The Portuguese proverb, “Deus escreve certo por linhas tortas” (God writes straight with crooked lines) is one that I have gotten used overtime to as a result of my missionary works here in Latin America. The proverb is said to be “the best line and a good summary of ‘The Elephant’s Journey’ by Jose Saramago, the Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.” The proverb has crept into religious usage to mean that even though it seems to humans that God as a creator does wrong things, he never really does them wrong, he acts rightly. Put differently, although God is perfect and people are not, God can still achieve his perfect plan through the imperfect actions of people. Therefore, despite everything, God has a plan, He knows what He does. Whenever something evil or unwanted happens to us, we shouldn’t despair. God never misses, He often brings forth good from evil (cf. CCC #309-324). The truth of this proverb summarizes today’s readings.
Recall that yesterday we saw a promising commencement of the mission of Paul and his companions in Philippi (a Roman colony and the principal city of the district of Macedonia); however, in today’s first reading, we hear how the ‘happy start’ changes disastrously when a mutiny broke out against the missionaries, who were accused before the authorities, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. We are told that they were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. Nevertheless, God brought forth a good out of that unpleasant situation. We learned that through the affliction of Paul’s imprisonment, God intervened and liberated them, which consequently led to the baptism of the jailer and his family. Thus, the Lord can work powerfully in situations where we feel powerless and helpless if we give him the space to do so. Indeed, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”
The Church’s missionary action is always subject to events similar to those faced by Paul and Silas. However, the mission must be continued, trusting in God who has the power to reverse difficult circumstances and events, bringing forth good and proving the world wrong. This mirrors the truth of today’s gospel reading, which makes us see how, while the world condemns Jesus’ disciples, the Holy Spirit reverses the situation, revealing the true being of the world, its error, its nullity, as stated by Jesus: “And when he [the Advocate] comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement…” Hence, we see the Spirit as a light that emerges in the criterion of divine judgment, different and even opposite to that of the world, capable of writing straight with crooked lines.
As missionary disciples of Christ, our fight against evil involves not only proclaiming the Gospel, but also a commitment to justice and peace among men. As such, we really need the Spirit today, which strengthens hearts, makes evident the reasons for believing, and which gives the courage to oppose the mentality of this world that is increasingly sure of itself, and more seductive. Above all, we need the Spirit to show us that many sectors of the “mundane” world have diabolic components in them, that the battle between Christ and the prince of this world continues, and that we are called to participate in this decisive struggle within us, among us and around us.
Therefore, my dear friends in Christ, when it appears that the more we pray, serve God and do His will, the more we are faced with hardships, health challenges, pandemics, and even the death of our loved ones, etc., we are called to hold firm, trust and continually believe in God who has the power to bring forth good out of evil. Sometimes it is very difficult to see God’s will when walking through these challenges: life seems crooked, erratic, and even out of control; we tend not to see His hand, feel His presence, or know if we are hearing His voice. Perhaps the lesson of St. Paul’s experiences might serve as an encouragement to us. Thus, major setbacks are but preludes to God’s deeper work. One of the most important things to remember in the face of these setbacks and challenges is that God makes our paths straight, but He often does it through what seems like a lot of crooked lines.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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