Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Jesus Invites Us To Share In The Good News

Jesus’ Mercy Endures Forever

Easter: Celebrating the Gift of Life!

Opening Our Hearts to Receive Jesus’ Mercy

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – Second Sunday of Lent)

“God is love,” Saint John writes in his first letter. Three simple words that capture the mystery of who God is and what God does. He is love and loves us. He is perfect, complete. His love is perfect, complete. His love for us is perfect, complete. I once heard a succinct definition for “perfect” that may capture this notion. Perfect means “nothing more is needed, nothing less will suffice.” How wonderful to contemplate God, who is love, during these weeks of Lent.

Lent, being a penitential season, helps us express our sorrow for our sins. It is a time for conversion, turning back to God and opening our hearts to His mercy. Sometimes when we look at our sins, our state of life, our falls, we might get overwhelmed. Some might even say, “How can God love me?” Perhaps that’s part of the mystery, despite our sins, God loves us and is constantly drawing us to Himself, into His life of love.

Saint Paul in the beautiful passage from his Letter to the Romans expresses the wonder of God’s love in these terms, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Although it is not part of the selection for today’s liturgy, the verses that conclude this section in his letter powerfully put an exclamation point on Paul’s statement. He writes:

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wonder of the Father’s love for us is foreshadowed in today’s readings. The Gospel account recalls the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain. In the Scriptures, mountains are a significant place of encounter with the divine (for example, Sinai). As Jesus is transfigured, Moses and Elijah appear to Him and converse with Him. These two represent the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Taken together they represent the covenant with Israel which is being brought to fulfillment. Peter and the others are overwhelmed at what they see. He bursts out that they will build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. However, he does not realize what he is saying. Jesus is not on a par with the others. He is unique. Hence, the Father interjects with a voice from the sky: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Now what follows next is very important for our understanding of God’s love. Jesus predicts His passion and death. He orders the apostles “not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” The disciples do not understand what He means but will later. The “beloved Son” will take on death and bring to completion God’s covenant with mankind. He will rise from the dead three days later and will manifest the victory of life over death, mercy over sin, love over hate.

The perfect love of God is manifest in Jesus’ sacrifice. At another time, Jesus will say to His disciples, likewise preparing them for his death, “there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This perfect and complete sacrifice of love is foreshadowed in the test of Abraham. Abraham is ordered to sacrifice his only son, the long-awaited son, the son who will carry the promise. Abraham does not understand but His faith in God pushes Him forward. He does not realize this is a test. The angel stops Abraham saying, “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

God did not ask of that sacrifice from Abraham, but He does ask it of Himself and His Son. Jesus willingly takes on this mission, his confrontation with evil, with sin and it will cost Him His life.

Yet like Abraham, He puts His faith in the Father. His faith will see Him through from death to life and in the process will see us through from death to life.

This is the God who loves. The One who offers Himself for His creation, He will save all for He is love.

God is love. He loves us to life. As we journey through Lent, we have the opportunity to confront our sins, to express our sorrow and to receive His mercy.

No sin is greater than God’s love. No wrong more powerful than His mercy. No evil can defeat, deter or diminish His love.

And so we make Paul’s words our own, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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