Mercifully not consumed

Readings for March 24, 2019
Third Sunday of Lent

Year C Readings
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Psalm 103
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9

Moses was curious by what he saw when a bush “though on fire, was not consumed.” Then he was astounded by what he heard, the voice of God coming from the curious fire. Here, God introduces himself to Moses, instructing him to tell the Israelites that God alone is God, the One who is, was, is now, and is to come. God’s fire is at once frightening and purifying. It is meant to be so, providing a visual example of God’s purifying love: fiery but mercifully unconsuming.

Still, sometimes it can feel consuming. This past week I watched my mom pass from this life. James writes that we are to “consider it all joy” when we are tested in our faith (James 1:2). While this test does not make me happy, I do feel joy knowing that my mother is at peace. But her death was also a reminder to me of how fragile life is for us all, and I have been filled with a renewed sense of urgency to turn toward the Lord and away from my own willful, sinful ways. When we accept God’s abundant mercy and change our sinful ways, we stand secure.

But even once we are secure, Paul warns us not to be be caught “unaware.” My test is ongoing. And one day (or 40 days) without returning to the same sin is good, but it is not enough. When we refuse to change fully, we will fall to God’s judgement. The Lord God is indeed “slow to anger,” but I do not want to risk that He not be pleased with me. Jesus affirms this in a stark rebuke, “if you do not repent, you will all perish.” In both fear and love, I need to seek His way in my life for all of my days.

I have been blessed to be given mercy in my own life. I am confident that when I confess my sins, they are forgiven me. But that confidence must not lead me to think I can continue in sinful ways, relying on God’s unconditional mercy to set me free without judgement for my actions. I must turn to Him in praise, reflect His love to those around me, and strengthen my faith in total dependence in doing His will.

Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear him. Amen
-Psalm 103

12 thoughts on “Mercifully not consumed

  1. It does take humbleness of heart and trust in God to consider all the suffering and trials we must face in joy. By going through this, our faith is refined like gold being tested through fire. But Peter reminds us that our faith is more precious than gold. Our Blessed Mother Mary already understood this before Pentecost as she stood beneath the Cross gazing upon her suffering and dying beloved Son. She made up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions by uniting her sorrow with his suffering for the temporal remission of humanity’s sins. What the world considers a cause for grief is all for a greater good, an immeasurable happiness for all eternity. A Holy Ghost missionary from Africa who gave a guest homily at my former parish many years ago told the congregation that he once was invited by villagers to attend a funeral service. He was invited to lead prayer and say a few words. When he stepped inside the large hut, he noticed that everyone was singing and dancing with great joy around the deceased who was laid out on a table surrounded by exotic foods and adorned with flowers. At first, he was taken aback expecting to hear the wailing of women which he was accustomed to hearing in the years he spent in Africa among indigenous tribes. But it dawned on him that what he was attending wasn’t a somber service for the death of a loved one, but a joyous celebration in the hope of his resurrection. In his own words, the priest told us it felt like he was invited to a birthday party, that is a new eternal birth and life with God in Heaven. These villagers certainly took the Letter of James to heart. They exemplified what true faith really is – not doubting or possessing two minds that shift back and forth like the wind. I shall remember the soul of your dear mother in my Rosary this evening in a spirit of joy. Peace.

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