Faith and Providence

“Faith and Providence”
Contemplating Matthew 9:2
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:1-8

The faith of friends
Heaven’s will bends?

The couplet ends in wonder because theologians themselves debate the workings of divine providence. How can God be both “immutable” (lacking imperfection) and also be moved by the prayers of the faithful? Does prayer change God?

Any attempted solution comes from a “perspective,” which by definition is limited. From the perspective of time, observers mark the changes of being and becoming, and it appears that prayer changes God. 

From the “perspective of eternity” (a contradictory notion), God is “the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life” (definition of Boethius as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica 1.10.1). Accordingly, God does not change.

Eternity and time, primary and secondary causes, find their convergence in God beyond all concepts and “perspectives,” even beyond the concept of God. 

In Aquinas’ classic solution, prayer fulfills God’s unchangeable will from all eternity (ST 2-2.83.2c). 

St. Thomas realized at the end of his life, however, that all words fail to circumscribe the uncircumscribable: “All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me” (December 6, 1273 after a mystical experience).

3 thoughts on “Faith and Providence

  1. fdan

    Dear GMC, thank you for your Wonder-filled reflection. It leads me to glorify God, glorify Him in his unchanging love and mercy towards all Creation. All glory be to God!

    Like

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