Psalm 79:8, 9, 11, 13
“Lord, great and awesome God,
These strong words from the book of Daniel cause us to pause and ponder. The description of how we act towards God is stark: we have sinned, been wicked, done evil, rebelled, disobeyed and as a result we stand shamefaced before God. This is hardly uplifting—or is it?
The author calls God great and awesome. Later in the reading, he states, “But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!” Here we see a glimpse of the truth of God’s love, always eager to offer compassion and forgiveness. But the question for you and me is how am I resisting this love?
Suppose we look at the relationship between ourselves and God from the opposite perspective. Instead of focusing on ourselves and how sinful we are, let’s look for a moment at the depth of God’s love coming towards us. I invite us to think back to the scene of Jesus at the Jordan River being baptized by John. Remember the words of the Father to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is a wonderful passage for meditation in Lent. Can you place yourself with Jesus and hear these same words spoken to you? We are beloved children of the Father. We are created out of love, to love. Nothing gives us greater joy and fulfillment than to act out of this love, knowing that we are “beloved.” Out of this deep knowing we can offer ourselves to each other and to God in total self-gift. This self-offering brings us the deepest joy.
Recall the many instances when you have loved generously: you who are parents sacrificing for your children; you who are students reaching out to someone who needs help; you who are married “dying” to yourself in forgiving the other’s failures yet one more time; you who have taken vows for a religious or lay vocation in the Church, daily offering the gift of self through celibacy for generativity for the Church and the world. Although this act of love was difficult, did you not know deep in your heart that this was love? As you forgave another, did you not know deep in your heart that you were forgiving as you have been forgiven?
What brings us the deepest joy lies in our identity as beloved children of God. As we “taste” this identity more and more completely, we can love more purely. Thus, the “secret” is for you and I to receive more and more the love of our gracious, compassionate, tender God into our hearts.
How does this connect with the admonition of today’s first reading? The seemingly stark words are meant strangely to be an encouragement for us. We are asked not to fear letting God reveal our sinfulness to us. Our sins reflect the ways we have been unable to receive God’s love for us. We often get things confused. Our own pride and life’s pains cause us to see reality as something I need to control, fix, manage, or be responsible for. We often feel alone in the pain and inadequacies inside. The message of truth is that we are beloved and that God is always eager to lavish love on us precisely when we are hurt, fearful, insecure or lonely. Will you and I let Him love us?
I invite you to ask God in this season of Lent to reveal your sinfulness to you. Don’t try to figure this out yourself. Ask God to show you how you resist letting Him love you. If you want, Jesus will touch your heart and save you from yourself precisely where it hurts you most.
The book of Hosea very beautifully portrays the depth of God’s heart yearning and aching for us to turn to Him so that He can love us as we so desire—if we say yes.
The more I called them, the farther they went from me….
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords, with bands of love;
I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” (Hosea 11:1-4)
Let us ask God to raise us to his cheek that we might be healed!
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