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03/08/2020 Second Sunday of Lent - Fr. Reggie

What God is asking of each one of us is completely beyond our capacities, if we depend on ourselves more than on God.

We cannot become what we are called to become - courageous, wise, self-controlled, and just, ambassadors of Christ's truth, joy, and lasting peace - by our own strength.

It's too much for us. When God first called Abraham, he didn't say, "Go and conquer the Promised Land and make yourself into a great nation that will be a blessing for the whole world." Instead, God called Abraham and said, "I will make of you a great nation... I will make your name great... I will bless those who bless you." God alone enables us to become what he created us to be. God is the senior partner in our Christian lives; we are junior partners. God is the field marshal; we are soldiers on the field. God is the mastermind; we are his assistants.

This doesn't mean that Christians are supposed to be passive.

We have to choose to be faithful to our Lord, and that means effort - constant, even painful effort.

But our effort will be useless unless it is rooted in God. God is like a river, and our lives are like plots of dry land that need water. Our job, our effort, is to dig irrigation channels from the river to the plots of land. Our lives can only become a blessing, if they are inundated with God's grace.

This is why St Paul tells Timothy to "bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."

The meaning and happiness we long for, the lasting achievements we yearn for - we can have it all, if we depend more on God than on ourselves.

Our need for God is fundamental, but it is not the whole story.

We also need others. We cannot isolate our relationship with God from the other relationships in our life. It is popular these days to try and do just that, to reduce religion to a "just me and God" thing. You often hear people doing this when they say that they are "spiritual, but not religious."

But that's not Christianity. Jesus taught us to pray "Our" Father, not "My" Father. He went even further, connecting the quality of our relationship with God to that of our relationship with our neighbors. This is why he taught us to pray, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Ray and Jane were a brother and sister who didn't get along well when they were kids. After one particularly upsetting battle, their dad expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms. Jane started to cry, and then she sobbed: "I'm sorry, Dad, I don't want to make you unhappy." Her father threw his arms around her and picked her up. But with her head over his shoulder she stuck out her tongue at Ray, who promptly shouted, "Dad, she's sticking her tongue out at me!" With that, her father set her down and spoke sternly: "Jane, you've got to make up with Ray first. If you shut Ray out, you shut me out. I love Ray as much as I love you."

We need God's strength to weather life's storms and reach spiritual maturity - we can't do it alone.

But God is a Father, and none of us is an only child.

His strength flows into our lives more freely when we are striving to be better brothers and sisters.

This is a crucial lesson to learn if we want to become spiritually mature.

We have to learn that we are not God, that we are created to depend more on him than on ourselves.

Original Sin was our first parents' failure to learn this lesson. They took the forbidden fruit because the devil told them it would make them like gods. They didn't want anything to be off limits. So they let their trust in their Creator die in their heart, disobeyed his command, and let loose evil, suffering, and death.

God responded by sending us "our savior Christ Jesus," as St Paul writes, "who destroyed death and brought life and immortality," who showed us the immensity of God's mercy in order to win back our trust.

Today let's renew our choice to listen to that Savior, to depend more on God than on ourselves, to "place our trust in him," as today's Psalm put it, by receiving his forgiveness and strength in the sacrament of Confession, by following the Ten Commandments - all of them, by understanding and obeying the teachings of the Church, even the inconvenient ones, and by paying attention to God's voice in our conscience.

Each of us knows where in our lives we have been acting like Adam and Eve, disobeying God, not trusting God, refusing to let him be God.

Jesus is about to renew his commitment to us through the sacrifice of this Mass and the gift of his body and blood in Holy Communion. 

When he does, let's ask forgiveness for the times we haven't trusted him enough.

And let's promise that from now on, depending on his help, we will let him lead us up the mountain, and wherever else he wants us to go.

 

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