“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” – Num. 23:19
Today’s Gospel reading echoes our Lord’s precious and timeless promise of the Heavenly Kingdom for those who embrace faith and spiritual rebirth through a baptism. What is the most precious promise you have ever received? There is a power in a simple promise. It transcends the boundaries of a mere agreement and contract between interested parties. Promise is a sacred bond between two people who share love, respect and trust. The little children know and understand the great value of a promise best. Parents’ simple promise of a playground trip or a visit to an ice cream shop instantly brings joy and excitement to a child’s life. On the other hand, broken promises can bring tears and disappointment. Despite their best efforts, parents sometimes are forced to break their promises because of circumstances beyond their control. However, God never does. The promises of our heavenly father are divine covenants and contracts that will undoubtedly be kept and carried out.
Think about it – every aspect of our faith relies on and is deeply rooted in the promises of God. Everything we hope and pray for, everything we expect and understand about our faith, the identity of God and his role in our lives is based purely on a divine promise. A promise of unconditional love, a promise that He will always be with us and never abandon us, promise that all our past, present and future shortfalls were forgiven with his crucifixion and resurrection, promise that there is life after grave and that we and our loved ones will be resurrected and enter the heavenly Kingdom which He prepared for us.
Yet, the spiritual promises of God are also quite different in nature. The human promise is strengthened and nourished by the special relationship and bond two individuals share. The promises given to each other can be discussed, evaluated and renewed. That is not so easy with spiritual promises that can neither be renewed, nor evaluated. God’s promises are directly connected to how strongly we are in touch with our faith. It is easy to see why and how the impact and importance of the divine promise diminishes and fades away when our faith is wounded and weak. However, today I would like to invite you to look at it from a different point of view and consider the lifegiving and precious promises of God as a way to revive our faith and draw closer to Him. Promises can be the primary source of strength and healing that help us to look through problems and see the possibilities that are present in our relationship with God.
This is beautifully portrayed in John Bunyan’s classic novel ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ written in the 1600s. The main character, ‘Christian’ embarks on a pilgrimage from his hometown, “City of Destruction” (this world), to the “Celestial City” (God, Heavenly Kingdom). The novel is as relevant today as the day it was written in depicting the struggles every Christian experiences through their spiritual journey. During his pilgrimage, Christian passes through many difficulties as he encounters strangers who present him with seemingly wonderful and rational alternatives to his faith. But most hostile among them is the Giant Doubt who imprisons him in his Doubting Castle from where there is no escape. And when it appears that all hope is gone, Christian realizes that the key he has with him, called ‘Promise’, can unlock the doors and help him escape.
There is a profound lesson for all of us in this novel. When the lights of our faith’s lanterns start to flicker and the darkness of doubt surrounds us, when we lose the sight of our Lord and can no longer hear his compassionate voice calling our name and guiding us, refleclecting and recalling his loving promises can unlock the doors of despair and doubt. May our Lord through his life-giving Holy Spirit always remind us about his promises and help us find strength and renewal of faith and hope in them.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:35