Ex 34:4-6, 8-9; 2Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18
I heard a cringe-worthy preaching recently from a man with a megaphone in a nearby van while I was in traffic. I will paraphrase the words of the preacher, “You wretched people. Repent of your sins. The wrath of God is on this country. You will all burn in the fires of hell. Nothing can prevent you from the punishment that God will send you soon, you wretched people…”
I didn’t care for his preaching because he never mentioned even once the mercy or love of God for sinners. He did not mention the reality of grace that overcomes all sin. He never reminded his audience of the One who said that “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”(Lk 5:32) and that “there is so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.”(Lk 15:10) Rather, the preacher began with, focused on, and emphasized eternal condemnation and hell fire of God that would descend on sinners. I just could not relate with his portrayed image of God at all.
Let us hear how God reveals Himself to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” (Ex 34:6) Our God does not begin with or emphasize divine condemnation but mercy and grace. He remains kind and faithful to all of us, even if we are not faithful to Him.
On Trinity Sunday, we contemplated the God of perfect communion. The three divine persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are a in perpetual and uninterrupted loving communion. Nothing can be added to or taken from this perfect communion of divine persons.
But this Triune God is also passionate for communion. God is intensely passionate for communion with all His sinful creatures. God does everything and sacrifices all to draw His creatures into communion with Him and to share His life with all humanity through Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ alone reveals to us God’s passionate desire for communion with us, “God so loved the world that He gave us His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The Father does not get a kick from the damnation of His children. He gives us Himself in Jesus Christ to bring us to share in His own intimate life.
The Son too does not find delight in condemning us in any way, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through Him.” How could He condemn those for whom He would die and rise from the dead to communicate His life? The death and resurrection of the Son means that we will receive not condemnation but all that we need for our salvation, “Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by His life.”(Rom 5:10)ADVERTISEMENTabout:blank
The Spirit also does not come to condemn us but to bring us into fellowship with God as His children. This is why St. Paul can wish the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2Cor 13:13).
Indeed, the Triune God always love us and labors to draw us into life-giving communion with Him even as we struggle with sin. God is definitely not interested in any way in our eternal damnation.
In truth, we are the ones who condemn ourselves. We condemn ourselves when we do not receive and respond to this invitation to deeper communion with God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit, “Whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”(Jn 3:16-18)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how are we so busy condemning ourselves that we become blind and deaf to the many ways in which God is constantly inviting us into deeper communion with Him and others? How are we buying into the lies of the devil and his false ministers that we are destined to nothing but the wrath of God?
We condemn ourselves when we doubt or reject God’s merciful love for us as we are. We can turn our back on His love for us because of our sins or struggles in this life. We condemn ourselves by being obstinate in our sins and refusing to draw closer to Him and love Him back in any way.
We condemn ourselves when we resist His grace in our lives. We do not ask for the graces that we need, and we do not correspond to this grace with appropriate action. We can even think that the grace of God cannot transform or save us. We forget that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5:20).
We condemn ourselves when we reject the kindness of God in our lives. We expect God to treat us as our sins deserve to the point that we do not see His kindness in our lives. Because we focus on our failures, we do not see God in His kindness treating us better than we really deserve.
We condemn ourselves when we doubt God’s fidelity to us. We do not believe His truth and promises to us. We think of His word as an unbearable and unjust burden to us, a hindrance to our freedom. We doubt that He will be faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. We doubt that God will give us sufficient grace that we need in each moment.
Each Eucharist is an encounter with the God of perfect communion who labors to bring His own imperfect creatures to communion with Him through the Eucharist. He always communicates grace and mercy without ever beginning or emphasizing condemnation.
As children of this God, we too must not focus on, begin with, or emphasize condemnation, for us or for others. That is not our job. Instead, let us focus on, begin with, and emphasize receiving and responding to the grace and mercy of God at each moment so that we continuously grow in communion with God.
This is how we attain eternal life, a share in the very life of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!