Sunday, March 15, 2015

God loves us. We sin. God is faithful.: 4th Sunday of Lent

(Listen to this homily here).

             Here is an eight-word summary of salvation history.  This history covers the greatest story ever told which goes beyond time itself.  God’s relationship with His creation is billions of years old; His relationship with us, around 200,000 years.
            And here is a quick summary: God loves us.  We sin.  God is faithful.
            These three realities are seen over and over again in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  They are the driving force of the great story of the Scriptures in describing God’s love and fidelity to us despite our sinfulness.
            We see these movements at work in a clear way in our first reading from 2nd Chronicles.  First, God’s love: “Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers,
send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.”  How powerful—“early and often” God manifested His love to His people in the Old Testament and to us today.
Yet the Israelites continue to sin.  Despite experiencing God’s great love throughout history, the Chronicler reports, “In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity…they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets…  The sacred author goes on to note that the Israelites entered their darkest period through their disobedience to God.  They were conquered by the Babylonians, exiled from their land and lost everyone and everything dear to them.
Here’s where things really get interesting.  The Word of God reads: “…the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy.”  Wait a second?  Isn’t this contrary to God’s love?  How can God be angry to the point there is no remedy?
We must remember that God doesn’t have emotions like us.  He doesn’t actually get angry—He doesn’t change.  In fact, God is love.  So anytime we read in Scripture about an emotion of God, what is really being expressed is a unique manifestation of God’s love from our perspective.
When you think about it—you can’t be angry if you don’t love first.  That’s why we get so angry with the Minnesota Vikings when they lose.  We love (I use this word loosely here) our team and continue to be mad when they blow it.  If we didn’t care about them, we wouldn’t care if they lost.
Or here is an example for you parents.  At some point, each of you told your child, “Don’t touch that pan, it’s hot…don’t touch it…DON’T TOUCH IT!”  And what did your child often do?  If they were like me, they touched it!  And you probably cried out in shock—even in frustration or concern—“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”  This is the anger described of God.  He kept telling the Israelites, “Don’t do that!  Don’t worship that!  Don’t idolize that!”  And how did they respond?  They touched the hot pan!  Your child’s finger got burnt through this experience…this is reality.  Likewise, the Israelites received the consequences of their actions. 
As a loving parent, how did you treat your child?  Did you say, “I told you so…good luck with that burn…enjoy the punishment of your mistake”?  Of course not!  You put your child’s finger under cold water, caressed them or gave it a kiss to make it better.  This is how God responds after we sin.  He is faithful.
St. Paul puts it this way: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —, raised us up with him…”
John the Evangelist expresses the reality of God’s love and fidelity in the most famous verses in the entire Bible—another excellent summary of salvation history: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
God loves us.  We sin.  God is faithful.
Lent is a time to face our sin head on.  It is a time to come humbly to our Lord who not only loved us first but also is infinitely patient, infinitely merciful and infinitely faithful to us despite our sinfulness.

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