Sunday, March 4, 2012

Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos

2nd Sunday Lent 2012:

    If God is for us, who can be against us. Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos. This was the motto of my seminary, the Pontifical College Josephinum. So over my years there I had many opportunities to reflect on these words: If God is for us, who can be against. Truly, God is for us. Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that God is out to get us, that he is waiting to condemn us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God is for us, and the cross is the proof.

    Our readings today help us to understand more fully the great mystery of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Today's transfiguration story shows forth the glory of Christ, the son of God. In the presence of his disciples he is changed, he shines forth in his glory appearing with Elijah and Moses, God's heavenly prophets. The voice of the Father can be heard: this is my beloved Son. This passage of Mark's gospel helps to set the stage for what is to follow: this is Christ, the son of God, the beloved. And, it is precisely this son who will be persecuted, it is this son who will be arrested, mocked, scourged, tortured, and crucified. The son of God, who today is arrayed in glory, will soon be covered in sweat and blood. The son of God who today shines forth on the mountain top will be buried in a tomb. We should see a great tension in all of this: there is a huge disparity between who Christ is and the death he suffers. He is the source of life, and he was put to death.

Yet, this is how we know that God is for us. Jesus is his only beloved Son, but just like Abraham, he does not withhold his son, but rather is willing to sacrifice him. Abraham showed his love for God in his offering of Isaac, and God shows his love for us in the sacrifice of Christ. This is why Paul can say what he does: if God is for us, who can be against us. God does not look to condemn us; rather, he sent his son to save us. The cross shows the lengths that God is willing to go in order to bring us salvation. So, if we ever wonder if God can forgive our sins, look at the Cross. Perhaps we think that there isn't enough mercy for us, look at the Cross. Because today as we ponder the transfiguration of Jesus we get a glimpse into who Christ is: the beloved son of God. And we remember that it is precisely this son who was given for us. God's love and mercy is more amazing than we can possible imagine, for he sent his son Jesus to suffer and die so that we might live.

As we contemplate this great love, aren't we moved to respond? How do we love God in return for such a great love? Listen again to the voice of the Father: this is my beloved Son, listen to him. Listen to Jesus. Do we hear his voice? Are we attentive to the ways Christ speaks to us? It is certainly true that we have many "Transfiguration" type moments in our lives. I'm sure we can remember some time when God seemed to break through and reveal himself to us. Those are great times to listen to Christ.

But we do not stay on that mountain, we cannot build those booths, tempting as it may be. Rather, we come down the mountain, we return to our normal lives, with Jesus walking beside us in more hidden ways. But that doesn't mean that Jesus stops speaking to us. Jesus speaks to us through Holy Scripture, through the voice of the Magisterium of the Church, he speaks to us in our hearts and minds in our prayer. Here at this Mass Jesus speaks to us in the liturgy of the Word, and he comes to us in His Blessed Sacrament. As we draw closer to the Cross of Christ during this season of Lent, we listen to the voice of Christ. His message is always the same: God loves you, and wants to bring you salvation, life, hope, and peace. For truly, if God is for us, who can be against us.

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