God of Surprises

Last month, we considered a handful of suggestions for “clergy resolutions” for the new year. Now that we’re already into February and most of our other resolutions have already disappeared in the rearview mirror, perhaps we might consider the most fundamental resolution of all: the resolution to remain open to whatever our “God of surprises” has in store for us next.

Pope Francis refers repeatedly to our God of surprises. This month, I’d like to recall and reflect on several points the pope made during his 2013 Pentecost homily in which he challenged us to the following: “Are we open to ‘God’s surprises’?” He organized his homily around three points related to the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

He reminds us that “newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences.... We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all-too-narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness — God always brings newness.... Are we open to ‘God’s surprises’?”

Pope Francis continues by reminding us that the Holy Spirit is not simply “the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony.” In fact, “it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony.... Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?”

Finally, Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit “makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Christ. Let us ask ourselves: Do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?”

What wonderful points for our reflection as we move into the new year. As baptized disciples who have been further consecrated by the Holy Spirit for service to the People of God, we, too, should rededicate ourselves to the newness, harmony and sense of mission of the Holy Spirit. As we remain open to our God of surprises, we can model these traits and inspire others to respond in kind. How did God surprise you yesterday? How is God surprising you today? Are you open to God’s surprises for tomorrow? The following poem captures the sense of divine surprise. May it remind us all of the possibilities!

May the God of Surprises Delight You

By Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.

DEACON DITEWIG, Ph.D., former executive director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate at the USCCB, now teaches and ministers in the Diocese of Monterey, Calif. He writes and consults extensively on the subject of the diaconate and contemporary ministry.