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God, tear open the heavens and come down!
by Fr. Robert Wild
While praying and reflecting on the prophet Isaiah I came across this passage, which spoke powerfully to me about hope and what hope really is: "Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down to make your name known, working unexpected miracles such as no one has ever heard of before" (Is 64:1).
"Unexpected miracles!" In the scriptures, our God is a God who does new and unexpected things. Think for a moment of some wonderful thing, some totally unexpected blessing that happened to you, something you never dreamed would happen, never dared to ask for. In the scriptures, hope is not simply people asking God to help with their own plans. Hope is about unexpected miracles.
Think of the patriarch Joseph, for example, who was thrown into a well by his brothers. I'm sure he prayed, "Oh God, get me out of this well!" He never would have dreamed of praying, "Oh God, rescue me from this well and raise me to a position of great power in Egypt." But that's exactly what happened. God not only rescued him, but because of Joseph's goodness and trust in the Lord, made him one of the great men of neighboring Egypt. (Gen, ch 37-50)
Consider Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel (Sm 1:1-28) praying, "Oh God, give me a child." She never would have dreamed of praying, "Oh God, give me a child and let him become one of the great prophets of Israel, so great as to anoint the first king of your people." She never would have asked for that, but that is exactly what happened.
Remember David tending his flock. He probably often asked God for large and healthy flocks when he grew up. He never would have dreamed of asking God that he become the chief shepherd of his people, Israel. But that's exactly what happened.
All throughout the scriptures, people have little plans and little ideas. God looks on them and says, "Why are your hopes so small? Don't you know who I am? I am the God who created the universe. I hold the whole future and all possibilities in my hands. You have no idea what I'd like to do for you, what I'm able to do for you, what I desire to do for you."
Even with Our Lady, God was greater than her desires. She was praying for the coming of the Messiah, as all Jewish maidens did at that time. Full of grace though she was, did Mary—even Mary—ever imagine that God himself would come in the flesh? Who did Mary think the Messiah would be? A king greater than David, a prophet greater than Elijah, a priest greater than Aaron, a legislator greater than Moses. But did she ever conceive the plan in the Father's heart? God even said to her, to Mary, "Your plans are too small, your hopes too limited. I myself will come and save my people!"Who ever would have prayed for that! Who ever would have suspected that God himself would come! Maybe Our Lady's hopes were that immense, but certainly no one else's were.
In our own lives we often conceive hope as God helping us out with our small plans. Christian hope is hope in God, a God who can do so much more than we could ever hope or imagine. Our God, the God of the scriptures, the Father of Jesus, is Someone who does totally unexpected miracles. Who ever would have expected the resurrection!
Haven't those of us who have tried to follow Christ in faith often experienced new and wonderful blessings? Haven't we seen God do things in and around us that have amazed and excited us and filled us with wonder? And he will do much more if we keep following him and put our hope in him.
We hope in God, not merely in the success of our plans with God's help. God's plans, we may be sure, will be much more vast and fruitful than ours. God told Abraham simply to travel west; he told Moses to go to Egypt. He didn't tell them too much else, except that he, the God of gods and the Lord of lords, would be with them.
God is constantly trying to get us to put our hope in him. "We don't know what the future holds," it has been said, "but we know who holds the future." So we walk into the future hand in hand with God. It most certainly may not be what we had planned but it will be something much better—what God has planned. Who ever would have expected that God himself would come to save us? What wonders still lie ahead of us in the immense creativity and goodness and omnipotence of God!