Is God our genie?
As a school boy I often prayed to God prior and during my exam times. In my innocence, I hoped that God would guide me to do well in my exams and I would get good results. Now as I look back on this, I see that I was picturing God as my magical genie in the famous cartoon movie, Aladdin, who could fulfil all my wishes. I’m sure it was just me imagining God that way!!!
The readings this weekend point out that the imagination of God as our genie is often the case for human beings. The Israelites saw God as a mere material provider for their physical needs – food in this weekend’s first reading and prior to and after this, in the book of Exodus, God provided them water to drink in the wilderness.
The crowds that followed Jesus to Capernaum had similar mentality. They saw Jesus as a genie that could work miracles to feed the multitude with so little. They wanted his miraculous power but not himself. Jesus pointed them to go beyond the miracle, the physical and material satisfaction, to recognise the sign revealing who he was. He was the Word Incarnate, the Word becoming flesh, the flesh that can feed us so we may grow in our maturity and relationship with the reality bigger than ourselves – God.
God at times (or most of the times) works through physical and material signs, not for the sake of fulfilling our physical and material needs and desires, but for the sake of relationship with Him/Her.
So when I prayed for good results for my exams back in my school time, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. The more I grew up, the lesser what I wanted in prayers has been satisfied. It is not because God doesn’t want to answer my prayers. God always answers our prayers, but not in the ways we might expect or hope for. But moreover, I have learnt that God is a lover who cannot be manipulated as a genie from the oil lamp, and I’m continuously called to learn to be in a loving relationship with God more than having all my desires and concerns solved and sorted miraculously. Relationship and shallow satisfaction are very different things.
Lots of people begin their faith journey by experiencing significant miracles that God gives them in their lives. But when these unbelievable miracles stop, their faith also starts to shake. That’s an indication that our faith basically relies on whether we are satisfied or not. And be sure, that’s not what faith is about, that’s not what God wants for us.
God wants to be our lover, a real lover, not our magical genie.
Br Khoi msc