|HOMILY FOR SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
It has been for me personally, and for many of us here at LJH, a somewhat uncomfortable and disturbing couple of weeks there has been a lot of illness in the community, prompting the question: “What is going on, Lord?” I think the unusual widespread nature of the illnesses, and their severity entitles us to think in terms of some kind of spiritual demonic attack on the community. As you know, the devil attacks in three areas: our property, our health and, most insidious of all, our relationships, usually before or after a significant time of blessing from the Lord. So how do we position ourselves during this time of attack? I received a word from the Lord some time back, from 2 Corinthians 12: 8- 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is at full stretch in your weakness.”
The Lord was asking me: “Bob, what do you want to see, your power at full stretch, or mine? What do you think the people want to see at full stretch, your power, or mine?” No brainer, huh?! Well then, the Lord said, “let yourself be weak...experience your limitations, and throw yourself onto my power.” So easy to say, so hard to do. I wasn’t aware of how much I had been relying on myself til I couldn’t do it anymore. Faith is born, when human strength fails.
I believe what the Lord is calling us into is the realm where our human strength fails, and His divine power takes over, and that is exciting...
I believe what the Lord is calling us into is the realm where our human strength fails, and His divine power takes over, and that is exciting, unless you are one of those people who would rather rely on yourself to get through, (in which case, good luck to you!) like the people Paul is fighting with in our second reading today: Jewish Christians, still relying on their physical Jewish descent and signs of covenant, like circumcision, and keeping all the Jewish laws, to save them, and Paul says: they are enemies of the cross of Christ. This sounds harsh, but let me tell you, if you are like that, if you think you can save yourself, by striving in your own strength to be a better person, to overcome sin and be holy, then you are also are an enemy of the cross of Christ. We are saved by God’s divine power breaking into our human situation of misery and despair and sin and absolute powerlessness and transforming us, not by our puny self-help efforts to save and change ourselves.
2007 has been prophesied as the year of transformation, and we won’t be able to experience that, unless we realize and accept NOW that this is something God has to do for us, not something we can do, or are expected to do, ourselves. Tranformation, transfiguration, is HIS work, not yours or mine and we have to receive that, and respond, in faith. Let’s take our example from Abram in today’s first reading. God’s promise to bless him with many descendants sounds a great promise, until you realize that Abram is 90 already, and his wife is 80, and there are no short cuts here, no adoption, no surrogate mothers, no fertility treatment, this is an impossible promise, humanly speaking. Of course, it is, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be a promise from God how many know that God specializes in impossible promises? If it was physically, humanly possible to achieve it, it wouldn’t be a promise from God and in face of it, Abraham can either walk off laughing, have himself committed to a lunatic hospital, or throw his hands up in the air, and give himself up to God, and say, “O.K. God , have it your way.” The fact that we can read about him in today’s first reading, 4000 years on from the event, shows that he did neither of the first two things, and that in throwing himself onto God’s strength, in faith and surrender, the promise CAME TRUE !
So now Abram is rightly honoured as being our father in faith, and for laying down a standard of how to respond to God’s impossible promises, that we can only, in all humility, seek to follow. Faith is born when human strength fails.
Oswald Chambers, in his book My Utmost for His Highest rightly takes Christians to task because we limit and impoverish the ministry of Jesus to the point that HE is unable to work in our lives. We do this when we come to Jesus to be our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as our almighty God. He writes: “The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish his ministry by saying, “Of course, He can’t do anything about this.” We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves you will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look towards Him.”
My sense is that in this year of grace, God is wanting to explode that whole puny, limited, impoverished way of seeing God's action in our lives. He wants us to move out of a limited, human worldly way of thinking and speaking about God and our Christian lives, into the realm of the supernatural, His realm, the realm of His almighty divine power and transforming grace. Before being born into this new realm, we have to spiritually die to the old worldview, which is so terribly, terribly deformed, and limited, and impoverishes us, and impoverishes Christ, by not expecting much of Him, other than that He be there, to comfort and sympathise with us. We have to be like Abram and surrender to God’s impossible, overwhelming vision for our lives, let Him put that old self-sufficient, human-striving way to death in you, so He can transfigure your old framework of thinking about yourself, your life, your world. Let us pray...
Fr. Bob Poole