2018 – Cycle B
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
There are aspects of life we talk about as downward spirals. The downward spirals of poverty, of addictions, of violence and war. Some people just get their head above water and an unexpected house, medical or car expenditure can send a family budget spiraling back down. A weak moment for an addict can result in a person returning to hours and days on internet porn or a drunken/drugged state which results in missing work and other responsibilities. How often has an unchecked and imbalanced sense of national patriotism sent nations to war resulting in the needless destruction of society and death of the innocent? Have we not experienced a continuous spiral into violence since the beginning of the last century?
Do we not find the same downward spiraling pattern if we reflect on sacred history? The Book of Chronicles is succinct:
- Israel adds sin upon sin.
- God sends his messengers to warn them.
- Israel rejects God’s prophets.
- Israel’s enemies destroy them and they are carried off into captivity.
- God restores his people.
- And the cycle begins again…
Might we consider that the divisions within the Body of Christ are a form of captivity? The 16th century wars of religion a rejection of the prophets. The various denominational divides, histories, and lack of humility as an exile against Christ’s prayer of unity the night before he died. Consider the sexual scandal and its cover-up in our Catholic Church. Is this not a rejection of the prophets that has led us into an exile? An exile in which we have lost credibility and people, buildings, parishes and support and thus lost the ability to carry out effectively the Gospel’s work by throwing us, “off message”?
Do we not find the Chronicler’s pattern of sin, rejection, and exile in our personal spiritual lives? How often I have heard, “Father, why go to confession? All I do is confess the same sins over and over.” And so, few Catholics avail themselves of the Sacrament of healing and wholeness.
This comment shows we may reflect on our recurring sinfulness but do we ever reflect on the opportunities and people God puts in our path to correct us, to point us in another direction or simply to remind us of what Jesus taught and of our responsibilities to the Body of Christ? Do we take advantage of those opportunities? These opportunities and people are God seeking to heal and restore us.
Do we ever reflect that the reason we keep sinning is because we reject God’s messengers for our own will? To progress in the spiritual life entails a willingness to change. In the Sacrament of Confession the penitent must express a “firm purpose of amendment”, that is, a desire to change. This declaration acknowledges that we have heard God’s messengers and with God’s grace desire to live the risen life that is already ours in Christ.
Do we reflect that we are captives to sin? Sin as a power that has a grip on us and controls us from which there is no remedy, the Chronicler states, except from God. Only God can stop the down spiritual spiral and God has chosen to do that in the crucifixion of Jesus. The cross is like a “stop” sign to sin and death; to the downward cycle of sin, rejection, punishment and restoration.
Lent reminds us and invites to accept God’s free choice to bring us to life in Christ once and for all. What happened to Jesus has happened to us. We have died. In Christ we have been raised, we sit at God’s right hand, we experience the richness of God’ mercy which has reformed us for good works. These forty days offer us a time to reclaim what is ours in Christ.
The Book of Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures. And our passage today is the last words of that book. Is it not curious that the last words we hear are from a nonbeliever, Cyrus, King of Persia? “Whoever among you belongs to any part of God’s people, may the God of Israel be with you! You can again go home.”
And as Dorothy reminds us: “There’s no place like home.”