Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourth Sunday of Lent: God Is In Control
The historian who wrote the Second Book of Chronicles, from which our first reading for today comes, looked back at the Babylonian Captivity and saw the hand of God. The Jewish people had practiced infidelity after infidelity, abomination after abomination. The prophets had been persecuted or ignored. Finally, God permitted a foreign people, the Babylonians, to conquer Judah, sack Jerusalem, and destroy the Temple. The vast majority of the people were deported into slavery in Babylon. They were marched across the desert bound together with rings through their noses. A good time was not had by all. This all happened in 588 B.C.
In Babylon the Hebrew people were completely powerless. The prophets had told them that God was only punishing them for a while; then they would be freed to return home. It seemed to be an impossible situation. The Babylonians were certainly not going to let them go. The Jews had no way of rebelling. How could it happen that they could return to Jerusalem? Nothing changed for 60 years. But then God worked his wonders. The Babylonians were conquered by their Northern neighbors, the Persians. According to the Chronicler, Cyrus, King of Persia, saw his conquests as gifts from God. He therefore immediately released the Jewish people so they could return to their land to rebuild the Temple to God in Jerusalem and thank their God for King Cyrus.
Throughout this whole account there is no doubt in the Chronicler's mind that God is in control of the world and of his people. This same thought is reflected in the 2nd reading for today from Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. "God has made us his handiwork," St. Paul says. He has given us a place in the heavens. He has created us in Christ "to lead the life of good deeds which he has prepared for us in advance." Nothing is outside of God's grasp and power. He who is in control of the universe has called us to join him in his recreation of the world in Christ Jesus.
Keeping all this in mind we can understand the significance of the gospel proclamation. God has sent his Son who will be raised up so that those who look upon him with faith may have eternal life. The sign of their faith is that they will do their deeds in the light.
The sign of God’s power is the cross. The Son of Man is lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. Jesus died for us to restore us to God’s intended place for mankind in the order of creation. At the same time, the cross is the sign of contradiction. Christ, put to death, is in control of the universe. What appears as defeat is really victory because the sacrifice of Christ initiates the reign of God. At his weakest, Jesus is the strongest. God is in control. He turns defeat into victory for those with a living faith in him.
We need to recognize this in our own struggles in life. When in our weakness, we are united to Christ's cross, we are at our strongest. We may be full of pain. Perhaps we have lost a loved one. A son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father, grandmother or grandfather dies. The grief comes upon us in waves. One minute we are numb, the next we are beyond consolation. But through it all we do believe in God. We call upon Him. We give Him our pain. And eventually we realize that He is carrying us through our sorrows. Our grief has become our prayer. Through it all, we have become stronger. All because we let God take control.
Maybe, we have had a terrible disappointment. A job we thought was untouchable comes to a sudden end. The college we had our heart set on does not accept us, or is more than our family can afford. We realize that a person we thought was a friend was really just using us. A relationship comes to an end, a marriage, a deep relationship of love, or a friendship we have valued over the years. Perhaps life is not turning out the way we expected. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, "If you want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans." It is easy to be disappointed in the world, in our lives, and particularly in ourselves. We have a choice, though. We can wallow in our grief, or we can take a huge step of faith and just ask God to make sense our of what appears to be nonsense. We let Him take control. And He does.
Life is too difficult to handle alone. We need help. All of us. He doesn’t want us to be in grief. He wants to heal us with His Love. We have Him. We need to trust in Him. Through it all God will take control.
When we are convinced that we can't handle things by ourselves and call upon God for help, we are at our strongest. Now we appreciate our need for Him in our lives. When we put all in His hands and act according to our consciences, even though this may be difficult and painful, then in our weakness we are strong.
God is in control. We have to tell ourselves that over and over again. If only we would allow Him to be our strength, then nothing can defeat us. Not even the worst cross we could imagine can destroy Hi Love in our lives.
Today we pray that we might have the humility and the courage to to trust God to be our strength.