ON THIS FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – “LAETARE” SUNDAY – we might ask how is it possible to reconcile with the perceived “angry” God of certain Old Testament passages with the God of love, mercy and compassion preached by Jesus in the New Testament? Some early Christians did not and created a heresy that believed in a vengeful Old Testament God and a merciful God of the New Testament. In much more recent times, some Christians have, in practice at least, believed in a God whose righteous anger was more prominent than His merciful love. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has always maintained the divine inspiration and the harmony of the two Testaments, which cannot contradict one another. The revelation they contain come from God; it is His word, we may not pick and choose passages we “approve” and reject others. It is gradual and reaches its perfection with Christ; God’s divine ways are so different from ours that we cannot grasp them in a moment; they dawn on us through the centuries and we should not expect the Old Testament to offer us a finished revelation. In fact, the today’s first reading is affected by both an anthropomorphism that attributes to God human emotions, and a primitive conception of God’s intervention in the world that attributes to his direct will and action all events, and in particular all calamities. Thus the Hebrew people attributed their national disasters to God’s anger; in their view, it was a wholly justified anger, provoked by the sins and constant unfaithfulness of his chosen people. In the Old Testament, there is a kind of ongoing “battle” between God’s justice and his mercy, as the inspired writers grapple with a justice and a loving mercy that human experience has difficulty reconciling even if in God they are one. Even in the Old Testament, mercy ultimately prevails: “divine anger lasts but a moment; divine favor lasts a lifetime” (Psalm 30:6); “In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8). In the New Testament readings, the accent is on God’s mercy and on his positive will that everyone be saved. He condemns no one. How could he? “He so loves the world that he gave his only Son” up to death to save us. Tragically, some can still prefer the darkness over the generosity of God’s wonderful light; they refuse to “believe in him” like Adam and Eve who chose the serpent’s deceit over the word of their Father and Creator. Or perhaps they fall prey to so many false prophets who say “follow me” versus listening for the call of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, whose invitation of “follow me” leads His followers – His disciples – along the path to everlasting life with Him in heaven. Folks, the choice is always ours. We need to understood God’s love, and how we separate ourselves from it by turning our backs on God through our sinfulness. God cannot oblige us to seek the light, for He cannot simultaneously create us as creatures who are free and not free (our creation is not something that happened in the past, it is ongoing). But God does not want us to have to weep, as the Babylonians cry out in today’s Psalm.  Why? Because Christ raised up on the cross before us constitutes the ultimate effort of His love, His ultimate appeal to our free response to His love. The vision of Jesus crucified for our sins is the antidote that, like the Israelites bitten by the serpents (Numbers 21:4-9), every generation of Christians has found to the poison of selfishness and sin. Praying the Stations of the Cross – every day or at least once or twice a week until Easter – would be a great way to apply this remedy.  At this halfway mark in the Season of Lent, let’s make the most of the time remaining to examine ourselves from within, to see how each of us stands right now before God, and undertake whatever steps are necessary to undergo that conversion of mind and heart, to rid ourselves of those things we do to separate ourselves from the love of God, to reconcile ourselves with Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and embrace His ways versus the ways of the world.  We all have the capacity to do this, and God gives us the graces to be super achievers in this regard…let’s just do it!

OF NOTE:

  • Congratulations to Dr. Paul Thornock, Mr. Robert Wisniewski, members of our Cathedral Choir, and all members of visiting choirs for their incredible performance last Sunday evening at the Renaissance in Lent The Spem in alium piece was the highlight of the evening, which erupted into a sustained five minute standing ovation. To say “well done!” is an understatement.
  • This past week Pope Francis named Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe as the new bishop of the Diocese of Lexington (Kentucky). For the past several years Bishop-elect Stowe has served as the Pastor and Rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. Our prayers and congratulations go with Bishop-elect Stowe in his new duties in service to the church and to the people of the Diocese of Lexington.
  • I received some wonderful news last week, following my first full colonoscopy (the colonoscopy last Spring was only partial, due to the revealed blockage formed by the cancerous tumor which led to surgery, chemotherapy, et cetera). This colonoscopy showed absolutely nothing – not even a polyp!  This, coupled with positive results from monthly blood tests, is changing the direction and needs for any post-surgical, post-chemo cancer check-ups. Thank you for all of your continued prayers! Thank you James Cancer Hospital staff!  And thank you, Lord, for the graces of the monthly Healing Masses at Our Lady of Consolation Basilica and Shrine at Carey and for allowing me to be a cancer survivor!