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Audio Available!
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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saved by Him. Not by ourselves. But we have work to do.



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God works in mysterious ways.
 - prophets and now through Magisterium 
 - Jesus
 - dreams for Joseph son of Jacob and Joseph husband of Mary
 - even a story in the Old Testament where God gives a donkey the ability to speak to a prophet!
 - But one of the biggest mysterious ways that God acted in the Old Testament was in the historical deliverance of his entire people from Exile in Babylon: Without them having to lift a finger (just like in Egypt about 8 centuries earlier), pagan king Cyrus of Persia, conqueror of Babylon, becomes God's instrument as he gives free release to the Jews to return to their land and offer their sacrifice to God in the temple.  They even get government funding for rebuilding the temple.

The Lord does this to show that He alone is God and that He alone is the one who graces and blesses His people. They truly don’t earn freedom. God gave it to them. Many times in fact: in Adam they were made free; then in Moses the Hebrews were freed from another slavery; then again through the Judges up to King Saul and David when they were firmly established once again; and that brings us to today’s reading which is clearly another way God frees them to worship once again.

But all of this is a foreshadowing of the most important victory over the greatest slavery of all: sin and its wages, death. Fear of death has enslaved humanity since the beginning, says Hebrews 2:15.  And that fear enslaved humanity, until God saw the time was right to deliver us through His Son.  This is the joy we celebrate every day as a Christian: that God has saved us by His grace.  The word grace means gift.  The Catechism defines it this way: "grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." (p. 1996) Grace is a participation in the life of God, which is poured unearned into human beings, whom it heals of sin and sanctifies. There are multiple ways God grants his own divine life to us, but the more important ones are through the entirety of revealed truth (the Gospel), the sacraments and the hierarchical ministry (yes, even homilies at times), and of course, prayer in all its forms liturgical and private.

All of God's salvation has nothing to do with our efforts.  Like the Israelite slaves in the first reading, we don't save ourselves.  It is all a free gift of God.  He is "rich in mercy," as we heard from Saint Paul today.  We run out of gas in seeking God's mercy long before He tires in giving it.

What are you afraid of?  If you think about it, it all points back to fear of death - death in all its small forms.  But Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, has conquered death, and by God's grace you are in Him no longer meant to fear anything, but simply to trust that God has your life in His hands.  Nothing is more freeing than that - living life with no fears, no worries, no regrets.  That is the freedom that Christ came to give us, and that is the grace that is ours by His free gift, if only we receive it.

Now to find that healing, we have to do something very simple, but very difficult.  It's simple because it's not complicated, but it is difficult because it is not easy.  And that is, we have to give up control of our lives - to die to ourselves, to our desires, to our dreams, to our plans, to our wants and needs, - and to say yes to God's Will in an absolutely radical way.  And if you think that is easy, look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane - he sweated blood over it.  No, it is clearly very difficult to give up control completely, but when we do that, we have died to the world and are now alive in Christ Jesus.  We transfer our life to where it matters most: heaven.  In God our soul finds rest and refuge.  Nothing can touch it any more.  That is the freedom that God wants to give us in his great mercy.  That is the grace in which we Christians stand day after day.  That's why we wear rose (pink) even in Lent.  That is why we can say "rejoice!" (Laetare) even when the evils of our world are so present to us, even as we endure great suffering and trial.  Merciful Jesus, Lord of life, truly present in this Eucharist, may Your grace help us to say "yes" to all the mysterious ways God wishes to work in our lives.  Amen.

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