Sunday Sermon for March 4, 2012, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B
Readings: Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10
In the second reading St. Paul asks the question “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Of course, we know that there are many who have opposed the Church for centuries, but those people are of little consequence since they are here for so short a time, then they are gone. Moreover, they have no say in our judgment, so St. Paul sees them as being of little importance in this question.
Instead, He asks about God being against us. This sounds foolish to most of us, yet we have probably all had the experience at some point in our lives of feeling like God hated us, rejected us, was punishing us, or some variation on this theme. There are many who are terrified of the thought of standing before God on the day of judgment. So St. Paul is asking if we really think God the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ is going to charge us or condemn us.
On the other hand, we need to recognize that there are many who have fallen prey to the opposite temptation: thinking that God is so loving and merciful that He will not allow anyone to be condemned. This is really nothing more than presumption. While it is true that we do not want to be walking around in fear, neither do we want to presume on His mercy or forbearance.
God is loving and merciful and every one of us will be depending on these when we are judged. However, the American ideas of love being that you will give me anything I want or allow me to do anything I want and mercy meaning that there are no consequences to my actions are both false. Love seeks the true good of the other while mercy brings good out of suffering.
As usual, the truth is in the middle. This is where St. Paul is pointing us. God gave us His Son Who died for us out of love and mercy. Therefore, we have proof of His love, we have proof of how merciful He really is. This gives us great hope and confidence as we approach God to confess or sins and to seek His mercy. However, it also implies that we are truly repentant and desire to amend our lives.
God knows everything we have thought, said, desired and done; there is nothing hidden from Him. But He so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so more than anything He wants to forgive us and He wants us to be reconciled with Him. To forgive is easy enough for Him, but to reconcile requires something on our part as well.
The confidence we can have because of the proof of God’s love gives us the strength and courage to accept our share of the Cross. It is our opportunity to give evidence of our love for God. Love, after all, is a two way street. In order to make sure that this confidence is not presumption, proof of our love is necessary, not because God needs proof, but because we do not know how much we actually love until it is put to the test.
In the first reading we see an extreme example of such a test where Abraham is asked to sacrifice His son, Isaac. God stops him, but Abraham had to prove that he loved God Who made the promise regarding him more than he loved the promise of God. God, of course, did not pull up short when it came to proving how much He loves us: He did not spare is only Son.
The other side of the proofs of our love is a greater love for God. The Gospel reading of the Transfiguration not only provides hope for the Apostles regarding the passion of our Lord, but it also shows us that on the other side of the suffering is something glorious. In this life the glory is having a greater capacity to love and to receive God’s love. Married couples understand this concept well: the relationship is strengthened in the difficult times and the love, the trust and the confidence are more profound after the trial is over.
So, we need to have great confidence in God: confidence in His love for us, confidence in what He will do for us, confidence in his mercy now and on the day of judgment. Obviously this confidence cannot be just words without depth. Only by growing closer to God, enduring the trials and growing in love with Him does this confidence grow. As our relationship with God develops over the years and we show ourselves faithful in trials, we will become completely confident in God’s love then, truly, nothing will be against us.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.