In today’s Mass readings, we have a beautiful passage from the book of Jeremiah:
This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Rise up, be off to the potter’s house;
there I will give you my message.
I went down to the potter’s house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Can I not do to you, house of Israel,
as this potter has done? says the LORD.
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, house of Israel.
What a rich image! In our mind’s eye, we see the artist: molding and shaping the clay, over and over. He is not frustrated when the clay does not conform to his will; he simply begins again, working with the clay until he is pleased.
The prophet Jeremiah likens this to God and His relationship to the nation of Israel, His chosen people. Remember, Israel was not easy to work with. The Old Testament is filled with images of Israel complaining as they wander in the desert (despite being led out of Egyptian slavery by God), their turning to false gods, rebelling against His word, even going so far as describing Israel as an unfaithful harlot. Yet the potter simply begins again, his wheel spinning, his hands working the clay.
We can apply this image in other ways. How often do we have a project or a prayerful desire that we work at creating? How often do we become impatient, even angry, when that situation goes sideways, like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel, spinning out of control at our fingertips? We cry out to God, “Why are You not helping me here? I’ve been at this for a long time, and it’s still not turning out the way I want?” Rather than following the calm, gentle example of God, we become unnerved, ready to give up. Yet God never gives up on us.
Each of us can look back on our lives and see the hand of God at work. Perhaps you can even see where you had prayed desperately for one outcome, only to have something entirely different take place. In hindsight, you see that God’s plan was so much greater than yours. There are times when we may be angry at God, blaming Him for turmoil and difficulties in our lives. Yet, like the potter at his wheel, God is tranquil yet persistent in molding us. And if we allow ourselves to be fashioned, formed, pliant to His will, we become a master creation.
It is always good to ask ourselves, “Am I trying to please God or myself? Am I seeking His will or mine?” Let us be the object of His will, shaped and formed in the hands of the Creator of all good things.