By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, October 1, 2012

Is There No Limit?

We embark this month on the Year of Faith. In its essence, faith is an acceptance of what God has revealed about himself in Christ. This includes a surrender to the wonder of his unlimited saving power. We human beings are weak and must operate within limits. Not so God. Yet we can sometimes find ourselves assuming that the reach of God's power does not extend beyond the parameters of our human judgment.

This assumption is at work in the Scripture passages proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. In the Book of Numbers, seventy elders leave the place where all the people were camped and go out to the tent of meeting, the place to encounter God. There the Lord bestows the spirit upon them and they begin to prophesy. Yet two who had remained in the camp also receive the spirit. The others are scandalized. Why? In their limited human judgement they presume that God's action would be confined to those at the tent. But God is not limited by the parameters of human judgement.

In the Gospel, the disciples report to Jesus that they saw someone not of their company casting out demons in his name and say they tried to stop him. The disciples know they are sent by the Lord to do just this work of mercy, and from this commission are presuming that only they will be the instruments of Christ's healing power. But God is not limited by the parameters of human judgement.

These are episodes that occurred thousands of years ago, but the temptation to assume limits to God's power perdures. Therefore, the Scriptures are an invitation for us to examine ourselves, and particularly our faith, and ask in what ways we are presuming that God's power is limited by human potential. For example, does my inability to forgive myself for grave sin cause me to doubt that God could ever forgive me? Does my experience of abandonment and isolation cause me to wonder if God even knows I exist? Does my experience of powerlessness make me question if God can lead me out of the mess I am in? In the face of illness, do I presume that the limits of medicine are the boundaries of God's possibility? If I am struggling with addiction, do I presume that its grip is more powerful than God's liberating grace?

Nothing is beyond God's reach. He is the Lord of the impossible. In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead he has revealed that not even the ultimate human limit of death can place any limit on his power, which transforms even death into life. As we look forward to the Year of Faith, let us pray that the Lord will increase our faith. May we all come to realize, more and more, that the reach of God's power is infinitely greater than we can dare to ask or even imagine (cf. Ephesians 3:14-21).