Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reflection for the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Once

Just as human beings die once, so also did Jesus Christ offer Himself once as a sacrifice for the whole world in order to take away sin.

Once. The Letter to the Hebrews couldn't be any clearer. Human beings live and die only once. There is no such thing as reincarnation. We get one life, and we have the responsibility to live it well and grow in God's grace and love. God gives us chance after chance to repent and holds out His forgiveness every time we do right up the very last moment of our lives. But when we die, that's it. We face the consequences of the choices we've made, for good or bad.

Once. Jesus died once, too, as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Sometimes Protestants will argue that Catholics try to sacrifice Jesus again at every Mass, but that simply is not true. In the Mass, Jesus' sacrifice is not repeated but made present that we may enter into it. Jesus' sacrifice now stands outside of time, in eternity, so it can be re-presented on the altar in a non-bloody way so that its effects may be applied to us. There is only one sacrifice, but by His grace, God extends it beyond time that we may immerse ourselves in it.

Once. Humans die once. Jesus sacrificed Himself once. But once is enough.

Tuesday – God Stooping

Today's Psalm presents the beautiful image of God stooping down to meet His child. The psalmist has been waiting for Him, hopefully, patiently, eagerly. He trusts that God will reach out toward him, and God does. When He does, He puts a new song in the psalmist's mouth, a hymn of praise and wonder.

Apparently, God also gives the psalmist knowledge of some crucial truths. The psalmist realizes that God does not want merely external sacrifices and burnt offerings. Instead, He desires obedience from His children. He wants His children to present themselves to Him with hearts open and ready: “Behold I come.”

The psalmist can't keep this hymn and this knowledge to himself. He proclaims God's justice, faithfulness, kindness, and salvation to the assembly. In other words, he tells everyone he can. He sings his hymn; he speaks the truth. He shares the secrets God has given him, knowing that they are entrusted to him to pass on to the whole world.

Wednesday – Saul's Conversion

A brilliant light flashed around Saul, so bright that he couldn't see. He dropped to the ground, shielding his eyes and wondering what in the world was going on.

Saul had been on a mission. He was out to eliminate the followers of the Way, the ones who claimed that Jesus Christ the crucified was God. They said that He had risen, that He was alive, that He was leading them to a new life. Saul hadn't believed a word of it. These people we're nothing but rabble rousers, he had decided, especially that Stephen who had been stoned to death. And good riddance, too. Saul didn't want anyone leading people away from his beloved Judaism. He would deal with those rebels, those blasphemers. He would throw them all into prison and let them rot. That's exactly what he was on his way to Damascus to do.

But now Saul found himself blinded on the ground. Then a voice called out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He said the only thing that came to mind, “Who are You, Sir?” The answer that came back was as stunning as the bright light: “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Something shifted deep down inside Saul. The truth hit him squarely and left him gasping. He was no longer the same man. He didn't know what would happen from here on out, but he did know one thing for sure: the followers of the Way were right; Jesus was God!

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