Expectations can be perplexing at times…. what’s expected…… what does my boss expect of me, what does my spouse expect of me, my kids, my friends, God…. ?
What does a father expect of his children? The 4th commandment spells it out. “Honor your father and your mother” (Deut 5:16; Mk 7:10). “Children owe their parents respect, gratitude, just obedience, and assistance”.(Catechism, par. 2251) This is pretty clear. Yet, what happens when the child doesn’t hit the mark. As a parent we all know that no one is perfect. No child is perfectly “obedient” and no parent is perfectly “just and loving”…. now what?
What does God expect of us? Again the commandments are clear…”love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Yet, no one obeys the Lord perfectly…”all have fallen short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23)….now what?
So, do you just quit and “throw in the towel … I tried and it doesn’t work.” Christmas is God’s wonderful answer to this dilemma, ultimately fulfilled in the Lord’s death and resurrection. He truly paid the price for all of our sins and shortcomings. But in light of this “Good News”, what’s going on behind the scenes; what does God expect of us?
We just read about St. Stephen the first martyr. What did God expect of Stephen? Did the Lord expect him to say yes to offering his life up for Christ? Would the Lord have been disappointed if Stephen had “snuck out of town” and avoided the martyr’s crown? It’s certainly wonderful to see Stephen’s faith and love for the Lord, but what did the Lord expect? What does the Lord expect from us when we’re put in a tough spot…. a spot of temptation…a spot of suffering, maybe even martyrdom? Certainly God gives us the grace to obey his promptings and to choose his will in every situation.
Maybe the better question is “what do we expect of ourself” in these situations? Sometimes I think I give myself too much room, too much latitude…. I let myself off the hook too easily….hey Jesus understands that I’m weak…I can always go to confession. We hear the phrase often today, “better to ask forgiveness that to ask permission”. (Note: that’s not in the Bible) Sometimes I forget what’s at stake. Holiness is at stake. God does forgive, but it doesn’t mean we haven’t lost something by missing the mark. Let’s strive for holiness. Let’s set our sights high. Let’s hold ourselves to God’s standard. Let’s shoot for an “A” and maybe settle for a “B”. That’s a lot better than shooting for a “D” and ending up with ?@?#?%$.
Thank God for his magnificent mercy, but let’s not presume on it. There’s a lot at stake.