coincidence, luck, and lepers

You know those times when things happen and you can’t understand why? I think we usually call it “luck.” It’s “good luck” to get all green lights when you’re running late, or to find money that you didn’t know you had just when you thought you were too broke for Starbucks. I mean, I’m not a superstitious person, but I hear it and say it a lot… I’m about to take a test, so “wish me luck!” Or you’re about to perform, so you merit an appropriate “break a leg!” You’re “lucky” if you barely miss getting into an accident or you pass a test you thought sure you would fail. Either you “luck in” to good or you “luck out” of bad.

But what of our relationship to God? Are we lucking into the goodness He has for us, or are we lucking out of the evils of satan? When we pray, are we asking to “get lucky”? I doubt any of us feel that way. Dear God, please make me lucky today. I’m not superstitious, but I really just want to have good things happen and avoid the bad. Thanks. Amen. It makes it seem as though our reality is constantly in suspense and totally out of control! Things just happen without reason, if we depend on luck!

Good thing God is in control. Good thing there is a way to look beyond luck and know that it’s really coincidence — divine intervention. Let me explain:
Luck: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.
Coincidence: a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent casual connection; correspondence in nature or time of occurrence.

First, I don’t believe in chance, I believe in purpose. Things happen for a reason, and are put into motion by the initial Force of it all, God the Creator. Second, I believe in a God that is remarkable and inconceivable. So to say that something happens without apparent connection means I can’t comprehend the connection. But He can. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough… okay, I’m BLESSED enough… to be able to see or understand a little of why things aligned the way they did. And usually, I take it as an answered prayer. I pray God, be with me and make sure I know it, and then things happen that are out of my control to remind me that they’re in His control, that He loves me in little ways, too.

So this all happened yesterday, to illustrate to me how coincidentally involved God is in my life. I first started thinking about it when Mark Hart tweeted about today’s readings. He tweeted, “What’s Sunday’s Gospel on 10/10/10? That’s right, it’s the ten lepers (Lk 17). God makes me smile.” Coincidence?

Yesterday, I was waking up by reading my email, blogs, etc, and getting ready to do some Saturday morning prayer. I try to start out my day with whatever it is that Fr. Alfonse has to say about the readings for the day. I kept clicking on his blog, wondering why I couldn’t get his Saturday post up. I finally gave up, convinced that he was busy and hadn’t posted yet. In fact, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t have that part of my “routine” that I just dumped the idea of reflecting on yesterday’s readings at all. Fine! I’ll just get out my Bible and find something myself, then! So I did. I decided to do use rhema prayer, where you look for a word, phrase, or passage that is God’s “word” to you for the day. I was reading the middle of Acts and wasn’t finding anything that was really speaking to me, so I turned back to Luke. Almost immediately, I found a passage that I knew I needed to share with a friend. After praying on that for a little bit, I turned back and found a passage that spoke to my heart. While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out to him and said, “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”” Luke 11:27-28 I didn’t really know what to think of it, and I knew it would take a lot more to understand it. But rhema is more about embracing it for the day and continuing to think and pray about it, so I closed my Bible and went to write an email. When I was done, Fr. Alfonse’s morning blog was up… and timestamped 6:29 am. I don’t know why it wasn’t there before! I start reading… and I swear my brain starts short-circuiting. The Gospel reading for Saturday was Luke 11:27-28. His reflection was on “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and observe it.”  COINCIDENCE??

A few hours later, I was working on getting this blog up and going and realized that although I was linking to Leah’s, she hadn’t updated in a while. So I tried to chat her on Facebook, but she signed off before I could say anything. Maybe a half hour after that, I realized she had updated her blog. So I texted her to say how crazy that was, when I was thinking that she should. She texted back — she had been trying to get a hold of ME but I wasn’t online, so she went to find her phone and found that I had already texted HER! MORE coincidence!

So anyway, I started thinking about how “lucky” I was, that I was noticing all these little things that were so far beyond my control or comprehension. And then I started to think that maybe I had done something good to “deserve” God’s attention. How silly! Sometimes I surprise myself with how childlike I am. The truth is, God is always in control. He is always blessing me with ways to draw close to Him. And while I don’t deserve it, I don’t have to. It’s Love.

Today, we heard about the ten lepers. In humility, they reached out to Christ. He responded with love, whether or not they “deserved it,” just like He responds to us. He told them what to do, and they went to do it. While they went, they were transformed. Funny how that happens. They did what He said because they trusted, they believed. But it was in acting on what they believed, acting on faith, that they were recreated. It was on the journey that they were changed, not when they arrived at the destination. It’s strange how every reflection and homily I have heard today is about thankfulness when all I can focus on is that transformation. If that’s what it’s like for us, then there’s hope not just for the destination, but for the journey! And then, all those reflections and homilies make sense. Our response should be to turn around and rejoice in our transformation with thanksgiving! What’s the point in continuing on that journey without constantly humbling ourselves before Christ? His glory, not ours. He is more beautiful, even as beautiful as we might become in Him.

I choose to respond to all those coincidences as God working in my life. They were seemingly insignificant, meaningless coincidences. But rather than resigning them to “luck,” which alludes to relying on myself and my successes and my failures, I attribute them to coincidence — to the One whose coincidences have created the universe and set all life in motion. Whose coincidence fulfilled prophecy and and brought us our Savior. Whose coincidence isn’t really coincidental… it’s divinely intentional.

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