Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part II
Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.
Controversy, rumors, secrecy. In our public and private lives, gossip and partisanship divide us to stir up chaos and confusion. Paul examines the story of Exodus to open our hearts to the divisions of our age.
Conspiracy, collusion, deceit. In our public and private lives, complicity and trickery fog our vision and obstruct our hearing. Paul presents a view of Jesus’ world so that we might draw parallels with our own times.
Paul reminds us of how God uses the harshness of Pharaoh to show his power and compassion for the people he has selected to be his own. He tells us that we must engage God in conversation, even to the point of argument: You will say to me then . . . “who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God?” (19-20) Paul tells us that God has infinite patience and mercy to use as he shepherds humans toward the truth; and he can choose his followers from among the Jews as well as the Gentile nations. Citing the prophet Hosea, Paul repeats that God has the power, and the prerogative, to do as God likes. He gives thanks that God is a good and gracious being who loves creation dearly; and he reminds us that we best find our true selves and we best fulfill God’s hope in us when we stumble over the obstacles in our way. Our troubles and sorrows bring us closer to God. Each time we hurdle over an obstacle, we open ourselves to divinity. Each time we admit that our views might be less narrow, we offer our hearts to God for conversion.
Paul tells us today that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendents (9:8). Our birth and heritage do not guarantee us a place with God, nor do our traditions and customs make us holy; rather it is those who respond to God’s call and act according to God’s plan who find themselves in union with God . . . and this can be anyone, even the least expected.
Hosea tells us and Paul re-states: Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved (9:25) This is the promise we are given, and God will always fulfill his promises for he is faithful.
We can take this lesson and apply it to the relationships in which we find ourselves. When a loved one knows a truth but still turns to darkness, we ask God to intervene with patience. When one we hold dear refuses to see what everyone else sees, we ask God to act in kindness. And when our world is out of focus and upside down, we ask God to transform evil into goodness for this is God’s promise, this is God’s assurance, this is God’s guarantee . . . that the faithful are rewarded . . . the repentant are transformed . . . and the rejected cornerstones will form strong foundations for the promised new life.
Let us give thanks that we are the children of this promise.