Mar 22, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B

The prophet Jeremiah tells us about God’s promise to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It is helpful to know that, before Jeremiah’s time, the nation of Israel had split into two kingdoms: the northern part known as Israel and the southern kingdom known as Judah. God says that he will make this covenant by placing the law within them and writing it upon their hearts. “All, from the least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.” On the surface, it is a promise to reunite the nation of Israel. God has bigger plans than this. He wants to unite all of humanity to himself.

The Father achieves this through Jesus. He does not say they shall repent and therefore I will no longer remember their sins. Our repentance is not the cause of his mercy. His mercy is the cause of our repentance. The Father achieves this by making it so that each heart may come to know him. He reveals himself in Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew (11:27) tells us: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus reveals the Father to us. “No man has ever seen God: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Jesus tells us that he is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.

In the Gospel we hear today, Jesus makes clear that the coming crucifixion is the reason for which he came. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father glorify your name.” This last utterance seems strange. How is the Father glorified through the crucifixion of his only begotten Son? We are accustomed to hear that Jesus died for our sins, to expiate them, to redeem us – literally to purchase us back from slavery to sin. This gives the sense that our sins have incurred a just sentence of wrath and the payment must be fulfilled. Therefore the Father exacts payment from his Son because we are too poor to make payment ourselves. There is a truth here: our sins do incur a just penalty. And the perfect justice of God cannot ignore this reality. But it is not the pain and suffering, physical or emotional that somehow satiates the Father in his wrath.

Rather, the motive is love. In order to open our hearts to have knowledge of the Father, the only begotten Son allowed his own heart to be pierced. There are at least two loves that we can see upon the Cross: the love of the Son for the Father, that he would not save even his own life but trusted entirely upon the Father, keeping perfect purity and innocence: even, crying out to forgive those who were crucifying him. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The second love is the love which the Son bears towards us. He condescended to be treated as a criminal for our sake, for our crimes. He knew the pain and misery of our lives, he stooped low, the just one, to undergo a share in the injustice of this world. If we take any time at all to consider the Holy Cross, we discover an abyss of love.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, “In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. [And] he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” He cried out in our place because we do not make loud cries on account of our sins. He cried our tears. He bore our pain. He suffered our indignities. He did all this for love. It is his love which glorifies the Father’s name.

As we fast approach the end of the Lenten Season, it is time to renew our love and fervor for our Lord in our Lenten discipline by fixing our eyes upon the sign of the great love which Jesus bears for us. Let us lift him up in our hearts so that he might draw us to himself.

Mar 17, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Lent B

The people of God were unfaithful to the commandments. They imitated the nations, "and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations." The abominations included the worship of idols. This happens to us also. It begins with the desire to live like the rest of the world. This leads to immorality of every type: living together without being married, pornography, abortion, contraceptives, divorce, unjust salaries, failure to care for the poor in our society and many other examples. Our private lives affect our religion. When we ignore the moral imperatives of justice and truth, we make ourselves to be little gods. If we do not adore God, we are going to adore something in his place: money, fame, success, possessions, or even our very selves. Sin darkens the soul. Would we listen if God sent a prophet or a saint to us? Why should we listen to a prophet or a saint, if we do not bother to listen to his Church?

The Light came into the world but, "people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." Every sin is a step into the darkness and a denial of the truth. Due to the darkness of sin, the sinner does not see well. For this reason, the Israelites preferred the darkness to the light. They enjoyed their sins more than they respected the messengers of God. They treated the prophets with contempt, the same way that they treated Jesus. What a shame it is, that we are no different today.

The immorality of our generation is destroying the faith of many. We learn our morality more from the television than from the Church. Our lives are no different than the rest of the world, with one exception: we go to the Holy Mass on Sunday - sometimes. We spend more time learning about our favorite sports team than about the teachings of the Church. We know what occurred in our favorite television program better than we know the Sacred Scriptures.

Something more is necessary than simply to assist at the Holy Mass. If our lives are lived contrary to the truth and the light, the Holy Mass by itself will not save us. Are our lives any different than those who do not believe? What are we to do? How is anyone able to be saved? The disciples asked this same question of Jesus, also. And Jesus said to them, "For man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."

Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them." Saint James adds to this in his letter: "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone mist say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble."

We cannot continue to live as the world lives. It is not sufficient to say: "I  believe in one God," if we do not say it with our lives. We must choose: will we prefer the Truth and the Light? or will we be satisfied with the darkness?