Is anything too wonderful for God? It’s a worthy question. How are you disposed to answer? Is anything too wonderful for God?
It’s hard for me to give an unqualified response. Is anything too wonderful for God? No, but…
There are ways that I am inclined to protect my hopes and expectations from disappointment. Ways that I may choose to limit God’s ability so that God conform to the pattern I have ostensibly observed. Perhaps I’m like Sarah in that regard. Laughing in the face of an irrational proposition. After a long life had taken its natural course, Sarah was aware of the typical pattern of women ceasing to bear children after a certain point. She had not been able to conceive while she was in child-bearing years, let alone now that the time had passed. We might excuse her laughter but her mysterious interlocutor didn’t. With a childlike simplicity he challenges her settled assumptions. Is anything too wonderful for God?
The centurion in our gospel passage today also had a life of experience that had inclined him in a particular direction toward the wonderful acts of God. But his posture of faith and trust was such that it amazed even Jesus. After so frequently being doubted, challenged and question for a sign, for proof of his power and authority, Jesus seems to be refreshingly shocked that some pagan Roman occupier was willing to approach with open expectations and trust. “You mean, you’re willing to just believe?” And more than that, the Centurion doesn’t even want to micro-manage Jesus into doing it his way, dragging him to his servant’s bedside, making sure that Jesus uses the right gestures, the perfect phrases, maybe a dramatic shout to ensure that the servant is healed. Rather, he simply trusts that Jesus has the authority to accomplish his request.
In the monastic tradition of remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays we have the frequent opportunity of remembering her life and witness to faith. A young girl, so much a stranger to the world when the angel Gabriel approached her with news of wonder. She knew enough to ask the honest question, “How am I to bear a child? I haven’t done the things that make babies.” Like Sarah, she was told simply, God will do this wonderful thing. And like the centurion, Our Lady allows God to work in God’s own ways. “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Be it unto me according to your word.”
Perhaps, the only things too wonderful for God are the things we refuse to accept. But when God does for us what we could not do for ourselves, and delighted gratitude wells up, we learn to accept all manner of gifts that were too wonderful for us to perceive. Sarah’s laughter of derision and dismissal was turned to the laughter of thanksgiving when she named her son of promise Isaac, meaning “He will laugh.”
May Sarah’s laughter, the centurion’s faith, and Mary’s acceptance work in us to scrape away the barnacles of doubt and dismay as we return to the Lord. May they restore to us an expectant wonder. And may we like Mary be bold to proclaim to the world, “The Lord has done great things for me. And holy is his name.” Amen.
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