Lent 03, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
By this will, we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10: 10)

It is not about us but about God. It is, therefore, not a question of whether we are so righteous or unrighteous that we deserve being spared or not spared of tragedies that not a few people today, like others in the past, consider to be divine punishments for sins (see Job 4:6 ff.; 8:6 ff.; 11:4 ff.; Jn. 9:1, 34). If it is about us at all, it will only be in the sense that our concern should not be about where others stand with regard to God’s judgment but about where we stand (see Darrell L. Bock’s commentary at [1]).

And where we stand is not any less precarious than where others stand, for sure, since no one is just before God (Ps. 14:3; 130:3; 143:2; Rom. 3:9, 23). Hence, if I may reiterate, it is not about us but about God. It is a matter of God taking the initiative to reach out to us even though we are not worthy to be in his presence. A mystery that is at once fascinating and terrifying, God draws us to himself and reveals to us his ineffable and inviolable name. Yet he warns us as well that his holiness must not be taken for granted

In the presence of the all-holy Lord, one is left with no choice but to confess one’s sinfulness and uncleanness (see Is. 6:3-5). God’s holiness allows no room for any human claim to righteousness and merit. All human beings, therefore, are to repent—including, and perhaps especially, those who think they are standing secure because they can make a claim to earlier experiences of God’s favor and protection. If we do not repent, Jesus assures us, we will perish as others did. Our need for repentance, he indicates, is what human tragedies, human vulnerability and mortality, should point us to. What we must avoid by way of repentance, then, is, paradoxically, what makes for repentance as well. It is not accidental that at the very beginning of Lent we are urged, “Remember that dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Touching on death, recounts Steve Jobs in a commencement address he delivered at Stanford University on June 12, 2005 (read it at [2] or see and hear him at [3]):

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as
if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression
on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every
morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to
do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many
days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered
to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external
expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall
away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that
you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have
something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
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No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.
And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is
as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is
Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new
is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared
away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

And very fundamental, of course, in the Christian point of view is that death, Jesus’ death, has made possible for us corruptible and mortal human beings repentance, forgiveness and salvation, incorruptibility, immortality and resurrection. And it is not in the sense St. Anselm of Canterbury understood Jesus’ death as the appeasement of an angry God. For the Lord, as today’s responsorial psalm makes very clear, is not an angry God; rather he is forgiving and surpassing in kindness and compassion. He proves his love for us, his kindness and compassion, in that Christ died for us sinners (Rom. 5:68).

Truly one of us though wholly God, Jesus died not to appease an angry God. He died to reveal God’s wisdom in folly and God’s power in weakness, God’s abundance in poverty and emptiness, in hunger and thirst. He died so we might no longer take the way of our first parents who attempted to turn their backs on their being creatures and usurp what rightly belongs only to God, but instead change course and adopt the same attitude as that of Christ, who became obedient to death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:5 ff.), and “stay foolish” and “stay hungry,” as Steve Jobs also counsels.

It is not about us offering bread and wine, needless to say, but rather about God through whose goodness we have bread and wine to offer, and by whose power what we offer is turned into our bread of life and our spiritual drink.