After reading the passion, we can see the cruelty and evil that is in the world come out. Even today we see harsh and even cruel punishment. Torture and even death still today are used to intimidate and control. Christ came with a message opposite to humanity’s dark side so to speak, preaching God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. His message endured, but the battle rages on between good and evil. So often the question is asked “why is there evil in the world?” yet do we ever ask what we do to prevent it. As we enter our holy days, let us remember that yes the Lord suffered, and died. Also that he was Human and divine. Yet his death and resurrection remain a mystery that will be revealed at our own death and rising. Today, I urge you to focus on the reading of the passion the you have previously heard and below is the link to the reading itself.
Jeremiah today straight out tells the people the old covenant is not working and that God is going to give them a new covenant. This new covenant will be different, there will be no temple and it will be written on the heart of each believer, not centered on a place or persons. In John today, we see Jesus say that his dieing by being lifted up for all of us is the new covenant. His life, his death, his suffering is all for the glory of God and the institution of the beginning of new covenant which we come to know as the church. But remember, our church is not a building,or a place, but within our hearts, within our communities. Jesus and his church is present when we gather in his name. The sacrifice of the new covenant was done once for all, but we continue that sacrifice when we celebrate the Eucharist. Christ’s Body and Blood becomes present for us to consume on the table we use to prepare for it. As we prepare for Easter, it good that we recall God has given us a new law, a new covenant. But it is also a responsibility. We are accountable for that law written on our hearts, a law of love, mercy and, yes, even forgiveness. It is a law Christ understands because he was like us as a human being, except for sin,and as divine he shares in God’s patience and love. So, we are called to look out for each other and to care. We must take to heart the words we say each Sunday “ Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
4th Sun Lent 3-11-18
I struggled for days with this ….I wrote at least 3 different homilies…all of which ended in the recycle bin. Be glad! Then I had an altogether brilliant idea.
Actually, it wasn’t the idea that was so brilliant. It was the color of these vestments that was brilliant. Whew! Rose with a glow! What is the point of this rose? This happens twice a year, once during Advent and once during Lent. It is the half way mark in those liturgical seasons. It is when the mood lightens at little. It is Joy breaking through the somber tone of the waiting in Advent, breaking through the examination of our lives and our faith in Lent. But why joy?? The “why” of the joy never sticks in my brain quite as well as “the what”.
So we look for joy in the readings. The first reading is about how the people of Judah lost their faith and ended up captives in Babylon. Nothing so joyful there (but they do finally return home). The Psalm is a lament, a song of loss and regret, grieving for the city of Jerusalem, which has been destroyed. No joy there.
Ah, but we have the 2nd reading, from St. Paul, who was writing the Good News of the Resurrection to people in the city of Ephesus. They were hearing this for the first time! Perhaps, just perhaps, we could put ourselves in that frame of mind, and see if we can find the joy there that seems to elude us.
So, what does Paul say? First thing is that God is rich in mercy. Mercy, as we talked about 2 weeks ago, is when God does not give us what we deserve. We sin, we fail, we do what we know we shouldn’t do, we don’t do what we know we should do, and still God is not ready to pounce on us with punishment. Why not? Because, Paul writes, God has “great love” for us. Everyone benefits from that great love. Being loved is what the human spirit needs more than any material thing. In fact, God loves us – greatly – even as we are in the middle of the worse moment of our lives, when we are behaving really badly.
Paul says that at that moment, when we had our backs turned on God, God saved us. God rescued us from ourselves and raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus, so very much more than we might dare to expect or even hope for. Paul calls this “grace”. Grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve. God’s plan is to show us the immeasurable riches of grace.
Now, that is amazing…and pretty joyful the more you think about it. I know of no one who finds a child or employee or student who are behaving at their very worst, knowingly being disobedient or disrespectful, and then takes them off to a place filled with joy and showers them with love. The joy-filled riches of grace are beyond counting, but they are not locked up in a bank, and never tarnish or lose their value.
If fact, God is ready to give us what no human really deserves, and that is to be with God for ever, face to face in real, pure love and joy. Paul makes it clear; we are saved by grace from punishment. We cannot earn enough bonus points on our credit cards to get a trip to eternity with God. Paul says it two different ways to make sure we get it: first, “By grace you have been saved through faith,” and second, “It is the gift of God; it is not from our actions or behavior, therefore no one may boast” (no one is better than the others).
Faith without good deeds, of course, is dead, as James wrote in his short letter (read it sometime). Faith is only real and alive in our lives when we are doing the good things that we were created to do. Paul wrote that God created us for the good works that already are waiting for us to do; we should find meaning and discover our very lives in doing good things. Grace seems to bring about this desire to act out in love.
People want joy, but they look in all the wrong places. Paul tells us the right place to look. We find joy when we believe God. Some people confuse joy with happiness or good circumstances. But, joy is a gift from God, and not dependent on where you live or beauty or strength or even good health. Joy is the result of accepting the “great love” of God. We wrap God’s love around us, we feel it, we deeply breath it in, we cling to it when we have nothing else.
Our Gospel reading backs Paul up. It also says that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn or punish us, but that we might be saved through him; and whoever lives in God’s love and joy comes to the light that their good works may be clearly seen as done through God.
So we continue on toward Easter. Ahead is the difficult half of Lent – facing the cruelty and selfishness that sometimes enters the human soul. We have to admit how low our price is for betrayal, how quickly we let fear overcome us, how we use others for a small moment of gain. But joy is an act of rebellion against the darkness, and so, for today, we focus on the joy of the triumph of the cross, and the power of love to overcome even death.
Once again like last week our attention is directed towards respect for the temple and sanctuary..We see the abuses of the temple and the messengers and prophets sent by God to them to correct them. We see as punishment God inflicted them with to be conquered and carried off to Babylon. Their banishment lasted seventy years.
In the gospel, we see Nicodemus come to Jesus in the night and seek to learn from Him. Here we see Jesus proclaim his death and resurrection and that those who believe in him may have eternal life. And so it is that those who believe and are baptised received God’s mercy and love and have eternal life. It doesn’t mean we will not die, but that we share eternal life now and will transition a different form in the future. The only problem is that some will not accept the light of life but instead choose the darkness of evil staying in the dark and rejecting God’s mercy. It is in the dark and darkness that evil thrives and bad things come into our world. Only one thing in history has stifled evil and only when believers believe in its power, the power of the crucified savior. Throughout history, we see many examples of the fight between light and darkness, good and evil. Jesus has saved us and the constant reminder to all of us is the cross that we see everywhere.