Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The love of God is what's real

In the story from Exodus, we hear the voice of God speaking the Law to the people of Israel. God gave the Law to guide us on how to be in right relationship with ourselves (our bodies and souls), with one another, and with God.

Deviation from the Law causes harm and eventually destroys the bonds of love between people and between a people and their God. It is for this reason that the Psalmist proclaims the law of God to be perfect and just, clean and enduring. It protects life and preserves love. (Ps 19)

Try as we might, however, we cannot keep the law entirely. We sin. We let some idol or another take the place of God in our lives: career, money, reputation, self-loathing, revenge, or control. Whatever idol lures us, it steals our loyalty and attention from God and eventually destroys the bonds of love in our lives. Ask any addict or the family of an addict.

The Law helps us to remember that we sin when we fail to give God priority in our lives. We sin when we fail to appreciate the abundance of gifts God is already pouring upon us and the gifts God is waiting for us to open ourselves to receive. How often do we fail to see what we have because we’re looking elsewhere at what we think we want?

I know of a woman who was engaged to an already married man for a year and a half. This woman found a way to understand this as if it weren’t adultery. We humans are gifted at fooling ourselves into thinking our sin isn’t really sin. The Psalmist calls this presumptuous sin and asks God to “cleanse us from our secret faults,” faults that are a secret to us, not to God.

The thing about sin is that is distracts us from what is real by tempting us with what isn’t real. And for this woman it sounded something like this: ‘I want a certain lifestyle and he seems to have it. If I have him, I have the life I want. Never mind that he’s married; that marriage never should have happened anyway (everyone says so), so ending it is really the right thing to do.’ But once married to this man, the woman finds out that the life she desired didn’t materialize. The reason is, it wasn’t real.

So what is real? God is real. God’s unfathomable love is real. God’s plan of salvation for the whole world fulfilled in Jesus Christ is real. God’s promises are real. The cross of Christ was real, as was the empty tomb. Forgiveness of our sin is real. The gift of the Holy Spirit in our midst is real.

During Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb 14, we stop and take notice of our sin, being still and listening for the voice of God. Running through the motions won’t do the trick. We might be able to fool ourselves, but there’s no fooling God. As St. Paul says, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1Cor 1:20) True wisdom is found on the cross of Christ where we have salvation by the forgiveness of our sins.

We don’t, therefore, have to avoid our sins – we couldn't if we tried. We only have to be willing to repent of them, to change our direction and go a different way.

Like St. Paul, I am convinced that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ro 8:38-39). With assurance like that, we have the confidence to repent year after year, time after time, and return to the love of God who never ceases to sustain us.

No comments: