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This also says that ANYONE who does good will be shown into heaven. No matter disciple or not.
Admission time…for years this “thing” about God’s love for me and for all, I didn’t really get it.
Okay, I was taught it, but I did not understand it. So that God felt the emotion of Love for me, what did that have to do with me and and how I live my life. How did it change anything? Life was still difficult. There were still problems. Me and others were still hurting.
My attitude and belief has changed, or has been changed. I understand better, in the heart and head, the power of the Father’s love, and the trust of that Love.
We have two great stories from Scripture of the power of trust in the Father’s love. The first is the power of failure in that trust, and the second is the power of success in that trust.
Adam & Eve, first of all, are not the two first people of the world, they are us! People who are tempted away from trusting in the God’s love for us. People who fail in the trust of love. Look at the story, Adam & Eve are tempted to take matters into their own hands; tempted to not have patience with God; tempted to place their trust in a material thing, a piece of fruit. And we know the results of their failure to trust…sin, death, chaos.
When we read this story to its completion, it is not that God punishes Adam and Eve, rather he states the consequences of their choice. Because they chose to separate themselves from the power of his love, death will result; hard and at time seemingly fruitless work will result; there will be divisions.
YET, there is also a beautiful part to the end of this episode. Remember, Adam and Eve fashioned clothes for themselves out of leaves, hardly appropriate clothes to live in. God, scripture says, fashioned real clothes for them out of leather. God was caring for them and preparing them for what was about to happen. The Father’s love and care remained despite their choice.
Then we have the antithesis of Adam & Eve; Jesus Christ.
He remained faithful to the love of the Father in spite of the tempter’s proddings. He was not fooled or swayed by the easy promises, the quick and easy way nor material things. He remained solid in love of the Father, solid in trust of the Father’s love for him.
And of course this will find its fullness in the Paschal Mystery, in his suffering, death and resurrection. His firmness of trust in the Father’s love brings him to life after death. And this is what we celebrate as Catholics.
See, always the temptation is to doubt God’s love for us. The temptation is to ask…”Why did God do this to me? or What has God done for me? Why did God take away my child? Why did God give my spouse Cancer? Why did God make me lose my job? Why was I betrayed, attacked, violated? Why does God permit such evil in this world
The Father does not do this to us. This is what Christ reveals.
Suffering is very real in this world, and God does not have to inflict nor does God desire to inflict suffering on us. Suffering is already real. Jesus suffered, he suffered horrifically. Suffering cannot be avoided by us. Jesus shows us though that the Father is right there, amidst the suffering, calling us to trust. Even as hard as it may seem to hear him, see him, sense him, the Father is present. He cares for us.
When we lose sight of this we can fall into a darker place. We can become embittered about life; lose hope, immersed into our own darkness and pain, and anger. This builds until we fail to be alive. We live in depression, live in constant anger and fear, hate. We fail to love any more.
That is when the evil in this world wins. That is when the suffering conquers us.
However, when we strive to trust in the Father’s love….then we will have life. Even as Christ was raised from the dead, so too will we.
We will have the power to move beyond the hurt that we have experienced; we will have the power to move beyond the evil perpetrated against us. We will have the power to love. We will have the power to live and to be alive. We will conquer death, in and through Jesus Christ.
This is Christ’s promise, this is the Father’s covenant with us.
A covenant made real in each Eucharist. A covenant in which we remember God’s promise of love for us through our Scripture. A covenant given to us in the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ, given to us to renew us, to make present that promise…God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit always, always love us.
Lent is this graced period of time, to recapture that love; to be renewed in trusting God’s love for us. It is a time to examine in our lives where we truly have placed our trust, usually in the things and power of this world, and to turn away from them and back to God. It is a time graced in which we are going to be sorely tempted, but we know that we are given the power to overcome those temptation. It is a time graced in which after 40 days of discipline, we arrive at Easter and understand better, in hearts and minds, the saving power of the Father’s love for us.
So when tempted to doubt that Love…don’t give in. Remain firm, remain alive.
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world, yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Part of the Lenten disciple of fasting is to show to ourselves our selves. We can learn from our fasting just how dependent we are upon “things” like certain foods, activities, et al.
Of course, if we are earnest in this, we will begin to examine all our actions, and ask ourselves “Why did I do this? Why do I tell these lies? Why do I drink to excess? Why do I engage in bad relationships?”
When we can begin to answer those questions, then we are on the path to freedom AND having more control over our selves.
(disclaimer…I had to learn this all the hard way!)
Life is about relationships.
A successful and well lived life in one in which we love others, in which we are loved and in which we see others as children of God.
In other words, the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is our faith as Catholics which comes to us in Jesus Christ. He reveals to us the nature of God, as Trinity, a community of three persons, yet a community so unified that the three are one. He reveals to us the nature of God as love, which binds the three as one. He reveals to us our nature as humans, as beings created in the image of God, that we are alive when in relationships, when there is love.
In Jesus’ life, he cured, he forgave, he inspired so that people could and would be part of community, part of life. So that people would love. He called us to live in this Kingdom of Heaven, to make it real here and now in this world.
So that living in it NOW…it would be natural for us to live it in the next.
Thus we are invited, inspired, called, through the Eucharist, through the body and blood of Christ, to live in this manner. We are called to life.
Yet, so many of us struggle with this. I do not think most of us truly understand this.
Based on my own life and based on the privilege of hearing confessions, many of us are stuck. We are not living to fullness of our call or faith. We are not fully alive.
Here is what I hear so often…I am so impatient all the time; I am so frustrated with my wife, my husband, my kids, my parents; I am angry all the time; I hate the democrats, I hate the republicans, I hate immigrants, I hate….
This is why this Gospel of today is so important. Jesus is being very, very clear; stop trying to be such control freaks! We get into so much trouble when we worrying about things we have no control over. We try to control way too much in this world and in this universe, and that includes God as well.
We want our spouses to act in a certain way, we want our children to act in a certain way, we want our parents, our politicians, we want everyone to act the way we want them to act. And of course, they don’t.
And then we get impatient, frustrated and angry. This anger builds and builds and builds, and becomes hate. And then that hate feeds our depression, our violence, our addictions, our isolation. This in turn separates us from others, from love. Marriages break down; family dysfunction arises, friendships strain, communities fight…
This is not life. This is not the Kingdom of Heaven.
As some have heard me say over and over, only because I have to say it to myself over and over…the only person in this entire universe that I can control is myself! And what I can control of myself is not very much.
And as Jesus says, then don’t worry about what I cannot, don’t worry about what any of us cannot control.
See, when we give up trying to control, trying to manipulate others around us; when we give up trying to control the entire Universe, when we give up thinking that we are always correct, OR give up trying to be God; OR give up fearing the universe…. then, paradoxically, we become truly powerful. We become alive.
Look to our Lord and Saviour. Did he try to control anyone? He inspired, motivated, and taught others to follow him; but he never forced them. Yet, throughout it all, he was in control of himself. He was totally free, even as he was being nailed to the cross. Control because he was doing what he wanted to do, what he could do. Because he knew he was loved and never forgotten by the Father.
He knew there was nothing, NOTHING, to fear.
God the Father was ultimately in Control, and the Father loved him.
The Father loves us.
Lent starts this Wednesday….here is challenge to all of us. We will make the normal sacrifices, we will give up chocolate and sweets, alcohol, etc. Fine. I challenge of us all to give up trying to control what we cannot.
I challenge all of us to start off the day praying in this manner…”God, you are God, not me. I will do what I can, so as to love and be loved. The rest of the Universe and all others are in your hands. Help me to understand this”
And if we honestly put our hearts and wills into this, at Easter time, 40 days hence, we too will be truly celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will celebrate Life, in all its wonder, and in all of its beauty, and in all of its Love.
One of the most difficult disciplines for me, is to always be conscious of how I am acting in front of others. Am I being true to the Catholic values that I believe. And honestly, I am not successful all the time.
Our egos can get in the way so much, that it prevents the good from happening, or more likely preventing us from doing what is good.