The religion of surprises
Many Christians are weighed down by the setbacks and unforeseen events of life. Situations such as those experienced in the prolonged quarantine of a pandemic naturally weigh on them. In general, we tend to get very nervous, even if it is only because things have not turned out as expected during the day. We are forgetting that Christianity is the religion of surprises, as Pope Francis is wont to say. It is not a fatalistic religion, in which everything is determined and can only happen in a certain way. God is provident, he knows better than we do what is best for us, and from time to time he enters into the routine of our lives and transforms them. This is not a novelty. It happened in the Old Testament and it continues to happen in the New Testament. The God of salvation is the God of surprises.
The example of Moses
Moses, a shepherd who has made a life with his wife and children, after escaping from Egypt years ago, finds to his surprise that God has chosen him to rescue his people. How is he going to present himself to Pharaoh if he knows beforehand that the answer will be negative to his request to allow the people of Israel to leave? Why will his people accept that he has been called to lead them to a new land? These are arguments to tell God no, to be frightened by the surprise of an incomprehensible choice. And it all began because Moses had gone up the mountain when he observed the strange phenomenon of a bush burning without being consumed (Ex 3:6). A Christian must also have his eyes and ears wide open, above the saturation of images that assail us daily, to see what God wants of him. The Holy Spirit is sowing our daily walk with concerns and inspirations. Let us listen to him, but let us keep in mind that listening to him implies being open to surprise.
The prophet Samuel is also a surprised man. He goes secretly to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as king of Israel (1 Sam 16:1-13). At first, he is guided by physical appearances, the outward appearance of the young men, but God surprises him by choosing the youngest boy, David, a shepherd who was not in the house at the time. The surprise was for Samuel, but also for David. It is striking that the young man does not put obstacles to his anointing. He simply lets himself be done. He trusts the prophet sent by God, and God will reward him by making the Messiah his descendant. Neither should we put obstacles and accept God's foresight, even in those things that do not seem logical to us and that we would have done otherwise. First, surprise, but then acceptance, trust in a God who is, above all, Father.
In the New Testament, Paul is another great surprise from God. He was not a disciple of Christ but a fierce persecutor, one of those who thought they were rendering a service to the Lord by persecuting Christians who deviated from the Pharisaic orthodoxy in which he had been educated. Again the divine surprise, this time on the road to Damascus. The persecutor's response is: Lord, what would you have me do (Acts 9:6). Once again docility, the previous life is left behind. There is a point of no return because a better life has been chosen, even though the path to walk it may be narrow.
First, surprise, but then acceptance, trust in a God who is, above all, Father.
God's most unexpected surprise
Jesus is God's most unexpected surprise. He was a surprise for the Jews, who expected a warrior and victorious Messiah, for he was born in a manger and died on a cross. Jesus continues to be a surprise for men of all times, because his words go beyond the categories and values of this world. He himself fills his public life with surprises. He surprises the Samaritan woman when he stops to talk to her even though he is a Jew (Jn 4:9), he surprises Zacchaeus when he asks to stay in his house (Lk 19:5) and he also surprises the rich young man when he tells him to follow him and renounce his possessions (Mk 10:21). Surprise demands the response of docility, but in the case of that young man we see that he did not accept the surprise and left in great distress because he had many possessions.
Pope Francis reminds us to keep our hearts open to God's surprises. The most surprising of all is the resurrection of Jesus. Those who accepted it best were the women who ran to announce it to the disciples (Mt 28:8), but those men, who had enjoyed the intimacy of the Master, did not want to receive the surprise. Such was the case of Thomas, but, as the pontiff said at Easter 2018, the Lord also has patience with those who do not go so fast. He is patient with each and every one of us.
Antonio R. Rubio Plo
Degree in History and Law
International writer and analyst
@blogculturayfe / @arubioplo