Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Psalm 116; Mark 9:2-10
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” This question from St. Paul’s Letter to the Church at Rome in the first century, is still valid now in the twenty-first. If God IS for us, who CAN be against us? But, is God for us? St. Paul answers this by saying, “Is it possible that he who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides?” God is for us, God has chosen us as his people, his friends, and desires nothing more than our eternal companionship. Do we truly believe this? Do we live like we believe this? Or do we, somewhere deep down, feel that God is out to get us, to trip us up, do we feel, somehow, that God is angry with us? That our relationship with God is a game in which he makes all the rules and we are bound to lose? I hope none of us feel this, because for a Christian, this is blasphemy. Jesus Christ came, lived, suffered, died and rose again that we might be reconciled with the Father. The word “reconcile” from Latin, through French and Middle English means, to bring back together. In Christ we have been brought back to the Father, the rupture of the Fall has been healed, we are once again Children of God.
So why do we all, at some time, feel alienated, removed, estranged from God? Why do we feel that God, if not exactly angry with us, is at least unhappy with us? Well, God has not moved, God has not changed – we feel this way because we have chosen to feel this way, because we have chosen to respond to the circumstances of our life by doubting God – not ourselves. Most of the time, not all, but most, if our lives are a mess it is because we have made choices that are contrary to God’s revealed Truth. We have sinned, and we either have not repented and are trying to justify ourselves, or we have repented and we resent the temporal consequences of our sin. Some sins, especially those involving other people, have consequences we cannot escape and just have to live with. We can live with them in grace, with patience, humility, faith and hope; or we can act like a sulky, pouty, child who tries to squirm away from parental discipline – the choice is ours. The existence of these consequences is not evidence that God is angry or unhappy with us, they are lessons in reality. The best way to teach a child not to touch a hot stove, after warning them away from it, is to let them touch it. The pain and scar of the burn will be a better reminder than nagging. God has warned us, and does not nag, he just lets us touch the stove.
We can learn the lessons God puts before us or we can rebel against them, claiming God is unfair and unjust, that we don’t deserve what is happening to us. Did Abraham deserve sacrificing Isaac, did Isaac deserve to die – that wasn’t the point, the point was a lesson in trusting God – in everything. Abraham, by his obedience, received the blessing of “descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” What blessings have we denied ourselves because we have refused the lesson? How much more difficult have we made our lives because we didn’t learn the first time, or the second time?
At the Transfiguration the voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him.” That is what we need to do if we want to learn our lessons – listen to Christ. In the Scriptures, in the Liturgy, in the Offices, in our Brothers and Sisters in the Church, and in the still, small voice in the silence of our hearts. If we can truly listen, and then act faithfully, we will know that God is for us, personally, for me, for you. That we, in Christ, are beloved of the Father. That we, in Christ, are empowered by the Spirit. That the Caim, the encompassing, protecting, enfolding Presence of the Trinity is real and that is where we live, and move and have our being.
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