“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
These words from the Second Reading for this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time are wonderfully encouraging words for us as Christians to hear. They remind us of the beautiful truth that the Lord is always working for our good, even when the circumstances of our lives seem to contradict that truth.
I do not intend to try to explain the theology of God’s unchanging providential will and how our free will relates to that plan. Just thinking about that can drive even the most astute theologian crazy! Rather, I would like to propose that we reflect on this truth as it has unfolded in our lives. Every one of us has encountered struggles, and while we may have not enjoyed them at the time, we usually come away from those experiences having learned some valuable lessons, lessons which help us as we move on in our lives. This is a basic proof for the validity of the words I referenced above from St. Paul.
As Christians, we are invited to have this belief not just after the fact, but before and during the events of our lives. In other words, when we anticipate something difficult that lies ahead for us, we should be reminded of this promise and know that no matter how difficult the future may be, God can use that in our lives for our good. And when we are in the midst of trials, we can face them with that supernatural perspective that we who love God believe that He has not abandoned us and that He can and will lead us to a place of good.
In all of this, we must remember that the good the Lord brings about is not necessarily according to our definition of good. The good of which St. Paul speaks is the good of our growing in holiness, which sometimes requires purification of our sinfulness. That can be painful, but it is always directed toward helping us to be more like Christ. Even when our trails mean suffering and possibly even death, our faith invites us to be reminded that our greatest good is not to be found here in this life, but it awaits us in the glory of Heaven. It was from that supernatural outlook that led St. Paul to write earlier in this same chapter of his Letter to the Romans: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Rom 8:18)
So as we face the ups and downs of life this week, maybe we could have these words in our hearts: “All things work for the good…omnia in bonum”, serving as an act of faith that helps us to be reminded that God our loving Father is always aware of our circumstances and is preparing good gifts for us, His beloved children.
Father Alford is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in the diocesan curia as the Vicar for Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.