Grace as Needed

A Homily for Father’s Day and for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary time, Year A

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

–Matthew 10:5-6–


If you want a recommendation for a really great book, a page turner, check out The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie was a Dutch Protestant who, together with her family, rescued Jews from the Nazis.  The ten Booms were eventually betrayed.  Corrie’s father Casper died in prison, while Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to the Ravensbrük concentration camp.  There it was that Betsy died, but Corrie was released from the camp through, as she later learned, a clerical error.

The Hiding Place is imbued with a phenomenal trust in a loving God.  Whence came Corrie’s remarkable confidence in the Almighty?  It came from her wise watchmaker father, Casper ten Boom.  For example, early in the book, Corrie relates a bedtime conversation from her childhood that took place shortly after the death of one of her aunts.  It had suddenly occurred to little Corrie that one day her beloved father would die too.  How on earth could she live without him?  That night, as her father was tucking her in for bed, she laid bare to him what was weighing most on her small heart.  Here’s how Corrie describes the scene:


I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed.  “You can’t die!  You can’t!”

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed.  “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this.  “Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly.  And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too.  Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.  When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”[1]


Mr. ten Boom’s insight reminds me of the title of a Gospel song.  Of God it can truly be said, “He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time.”  God gives us grace on a need-to-have basis.

In our reading from the Tenth Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sends out His Apostles to preach to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  He specifically admonishes the Twelve not to enter pagan territory or a Samaritan village.  The Apostles are to stick to their own people.  However, by the time we get to Chapter 28, the very last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we have the Great Commission.  Jesus tells the Eleven, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”[2]  Obviously the grace the Apostles did not need for a local mission in Israel would eventually be given them at Pentecost so that they could evangelize the world.

The good Lord gives grace on a need-to-have basis.  That’s why, C.S. Lewis declares, Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”[3]  We must not, as Casper ten Boom says, “run out ahead of” God, asking for the grace to face potential or imagined eventualities.  We are, instead, simply to do the will of God right now and to entrust the future to divine Providence.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow puts it so well in that favorite poem of mine:


Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead![4]


I repeat: The good Lord gives us grace on a need-to-have basis.

I could end this homily here, but before I walk away from the pulpit, I want to underscore on this Father’s Day how important Casper ten Boom was to his daughter Corrie’s faith formation.  As a matter of fact, a father’s role in the faith development of his children seems to be far more important than most people would suspect.  Let me quote from someone named Eric Sammons in an article in Crisis Magazine, dated 9 January 2020.  Mr. Sammons writes:


A 2000 report in Population Studies magazine concluded that it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance and/or absence from church of the children.  More specifically, it states: “In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in fifty will become a regular worshipper.  If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two thirds and three quarters of their children become churchgoers, regular and irregular.”  Only two percent of kids whose fathers don’t practice the faith will end up practicing that faith.  It’s clear, then, that fathers more than anyone impact their children’s future religious practice, and if parishes want children to retain their faith in adulthood, which is the purpose of youth ministry, they should focus, not on the children but on the fathers.[5]


Thus says Eric Sammons.  The good Lord does indeed give grace on a need-to-have basis.  However, as with Casper ten Boon, fathers, more than anyone else, teach their children to recognize this.

[1] Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom.

[2] Matthew 28:19.

[3] Matthew 6:11.  In Letter VI of The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis attributes these words to his demonic title character:

“We want him [i.e. your patient] to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.  There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy [i.e. God].  He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.

“Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy’s will.  What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him — the present anxiety and suspense.  It is about this that he is to say ‘Thy will be done’, and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided.”

[4] From “A Psalm of Life.”

[5] Eric Sammons, “No Church for Young Men,” Crisis Magazine, 9 January 2020.