March 12, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Walk in the light of Christ and live in his truth

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the Lord against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy” (2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23).

Sometimes we mistakenly imagine God as an angry, vengeful figure whose main objective is to scold his wayward children and punish sinners. This is not the God of love and mercy portrayed in the Old and New Testaments, but it’s an image that many people have come to accept as a picture of God.

As Christians, we have to work hard to replace this negative image with a much more positive and, we believe, accurate understanding of the God who is love. In fact, unless we acknowledge the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as generous, compassionate and forgiving, we cannot open our hearts to him, and it becomes difficult to experience the joy that comes from being united with him.

The Scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent contain vivid images of God. In the first reading from the Second Book of Chronicles (2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23), we learn that God has compassion for his chosen people even when they abuse his trust and inflame his anger toward them. Even in captivity in Babylon, the Lord does not abandon his unfaithful people. He rescues them and returns them to the land of promise.

The responsorial psalm (Ps 137) contains one of the most powerful lamentations in the Bible. God’s chosen people mourn the loss of their homeland. They long to return to Jerusalem, the holy city where God dwells among his people in peace and harmony. As they recall their homeland, they sing:

“By the streams of Babylon
    we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion….
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand be forgotten!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
    if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
    ahead of my joy” (Ps 137:1, 5, 6).

This song of Israel speaks for all of us. It gives voice to the longing we feel for God’s love and mercy as symbolized by Jerusalem, the city of peace. Israel’s problems were the result of its people’s hardness of heart, but God did not abandon them—just as he remains faithful to us today.

In the second reading for this Sunday (Eph 2:4-10), St. Paul tells us that God is far from being spiteful or vindictive. The face of God that has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4) because of the great love he has for us. “Even when we were dead in our transgressions,” St. Paul says, we were given life with Christ who has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens … that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-7).

This is the very opposite of a vengeful God. It is the action of a God who bends over backward to save us from ourselves and from the powers of darkness and death.

The reading from St. John’s Gospel (Jn 3:14-21) says it best: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). This simple but extremely powerful statement shows us the face of God. Our loving God intervenes in the mighty struggles between the forces of light and darkness that take place in our individual lives and in the world around us. And we learn from him that “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn 3:21).

In spite of the fact that we are sinners and, therefore, responsible for our sins’ harmful consequences, how could we ever believe the idea that our God is mean or punitive? Sacred Scripture is filled to overflowing with stories of God’s love and mercy. The testimony of countless saints and martyrs affirms that even when we, like the people of Israel, mock the messengers of God, despise his warnings and scoff at his prophets, God does not give up on us. Instead, he extends to us his forgiveness and his sanctifying grace to help us “come to the light” in Christ.

As we continue our Lenten journey to the joy of Easter, let’s turn to our loving God and ask him to satisfy our longings and calm our fears so that we can walk in the light of Christ and live in his truth. †

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