God is your husband.... Wees trouw en betrouwbaar!
Anniversary-feast of El Shaddai
Op zaterdag 8 november vierde de El Shaddai gemeenschap in Amsterdam haar “dies”, de 19e verjaardag van haar bestaan. Vele mensen die verbonden zijn met de internationale gemeenschap, die van Filippijnse oorsprong is, evenals de Filippijnse ambassadeur waren naar de Amsterdamse Vredeskerk gekomen om deze dag mee te vieren.
Ook vanuit de buitenlandse zustergemeenschappen waren vertegenwoordigers aanwezig. Natuurlijk werden tijdens de heilige Mis ook de slachtoffers herdacht van de Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), die nu precies een jaar geleden veel verwoestingen aanrichtte en slachtoffers kostte. Aan het begin van de Mis heb ik de slachtoffers en hun families herdacht met een kort woord en aan de voorbede is voor hen een speciaal gebed toegevoegd. De mensen in de Filippijnen hebben hard gewerkt om met buitenlandse steun alles op te bouwen, maar nog belangrijker is het de ervaringen met elkaar te kunnen delen en troost te vinden. Daarom kijken de Filippino's uit naar het bezoek van paus Franciscus in januari, die juist met die bedoeling komt.
In Amsterdam hoorde ik tijdens deze dag dat mensen die in een schamel hutje wonen, opgebouwd met wrakhout na de storm, niet willen verhuizen naar hun nieuwe woning, die nu gereed is, omdat het hutje langs de route ligt waar de paus langs komt!
Dear brothers and sisters of El Shaddai,
It is a joy for me to celebrate this annual feast,
the anniversary of the Amsterdam chapter
of this international fellowship.
May the Lord, may El-Shaddai be with you always!
As you may know: El Shaddai was the name
by wich God was known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 6, 2-3).
Though bible-interpreters often differ
in their understanding of this name,
it seems to stress the power and the greatness of the Lord
- God is Lord! -
and therefore it is often translated as:
“God Almighty” or “God of Heaven”.
Others however think Shaddai derives from
a semitic word meaning “mountain”
and El Shaddai they translate as “God of the mountain”,
which would refer to Mount Sinai,
where God gave the ten commandments
to His people.
God is a mighty God,
God of heaven and earth
and of everything;
and every human being
is in His caring, powerful hands.
This mighty God is the one
who gave us ten basic rules
for our lives: the ten commandments.
God is the husband of His people
If your are married,
of course in married life
- like in the life of every human being -
there are highlights, beautiful days
and difficult, arduous or dull periods
in your family, your life and relationship.
Sometimes you may question yourself:
“Does he, does she still really loves me?”
Of course this question posed in a marriage-relation
is different from questions you may have
with relation to other friends or neighbours.
There you feel more free to quit
or to let the relationship fade away.
But your marriage is something different:
a lifetime commitment to love and honor
and to be true to each other
for better and worse
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and health;
it asks for faithfulness,
you need to be trustworthy
and put real trust in each other.
For that it is important to know
and understand each other well.
In fact all this is not much different
when it comes to our relationship with God:
you have to get to know Him better
to understand Him
and to appreciate His love.
That’s why Holy Scripture often compares
our relationship to God
with the relationship of man and wife:
God is our husband,
we are united with Him
in a holy covenant.
The words that are repeated daily
by every priest in this world
during the holy Eucharist
express the solemn vow of God’s marriage to us:
“This is my body,
I give it to you;
this is my Blood,
I pour it out for you
in an everlasting covenant.
I will be there for you always!”
These beautiful words
we have heard so many times
during consecration in the Holy Eucharist;
they are so familiar to us
that maybe we listen with half an ear.
But no, that would be a pity,
because these are words so full of love and care!
Hear these words
with your heart and soul:
the greatest and most adorable Person
is declaring here his everlasting love for you!
In one of the books of the Old Testament,
the book of the prophet Hosea,
the prophet has to marry an adulterous woman.
Thus he becomes a sign and symbol
of the relationship of God and man:
so many people are unfaithfully leaving God.
Maybe they are disappointed,
maybe they think
that they do not have to expect much from God
and they go away.
The Bible compares them there
to an adulterous woman.
But God remains faithful,
though He suffers from being abandoned,
though His wife - His people, mankind -
leaves Him alone,
He remains faithful,
He will be always there
just waiting for His bride coming home again.
And when she comes back,
He will embrace her,
cover her with kisses
and forgive her everything she did.
We are that bride!
And this is also our call:
to go back,
to renew our relationship,
to receive His forgiveness
and experience His unwavering love.
Ups and downs in married life...
Sometimes we can clearly feel His presence.
We all may have had
some experience of His presence, His love for us.
Then we feel joy and strength,
we rejoice in the Lord,
that is a special grace.
Then we may experience our own unworthiness
and the greatness of the love of the One
who created us.
He promises us a cross on earth
and a treasure in heaven.
These days, these experiences
are beautiful memories.
It is like for a married couple:
they should never forget those days.
Saint Paul in today’s first reading
tells the Philippians
that he was left alone by everyone,
except by them.
Nobody cared for him in his distress.
But there he learned to find his strength in God
who empowers him.
There will also be days and hours
of loneliness, of sorrow and pains,
that we feel abandoned, suffering
and having difficulty talking to the Lord.
But we have to learn to find our strength in Him!
Don’t leave Him alone,
your are married to Him
in an everlasting covenant!
Go back to Him,
listen to Him,
try to understand Him
and to deepen your relationship.
In today’s gospel the Lord makes clear to us
that this faithfulness
is prepared in everything we do:
if we are trustworthy in very small matters,
we will be trustworthy in great ones.
Trustworthiness is an attitude we practice
in alle kinds of little things:
in how we deal with money,
with material things,
with our superiors etcetera.
If we are trustworthy
in normal, daily things of life,
we will be faithful in the greater matters,
that’s what Jesus says today.
This does not mean we are lost
when we make a mistake,
a failure, a lapse.
In last week’s newspaper
a well known Dutchman,
former head of the secret services in the Netherlands,
a man who believes in God,
was interviewed about his opinion
on the ten commandments.
When it came to the sixth commandment
he publicly confessed that once in his life
he had been adulterous.
He expressed how terribly sorry he was for that
and how grateful he was
that his wife had forgiven this misstep.
Thanks to her forgiveness
this lapse had brought him
to a new and deeper relationship with his wife.
Likewise it is in our relationship with God:
when we painfully feel our guilt
let us not run away
but ask for forgiveness
with courage and sincerity,
with humility and love,
the Lord will forgive us
and our relationship with Him
will be better than before,
will be deepened more and more.
That’s how grace works!
Back to Him!
El Shaddai! God is Lord, an Almighty God
He is the one who gave us these commandments
to live well
and we will be with Him forever
if we just accept His love for us
and try to be faithful, trustworthy,
but never hesitate
to come back to Him
if something went wrong.
He is an understanding, loving, merciful God!