4th Sunday of Easter – April 25, 2021

4th Sunday of Easter – April 25, 2021

East4B21.     Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12.    Following the cure of the crippled beggar in Acts 3, Peter, standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Although it was the person of Peter and his voice that was heard, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through him.  When they heard Peter, they were hearing God, made audible through the voice of Peter, God’s spokesperson.  Jesus said in John 14:26: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.”   Peter declared in today’s first reading, “It was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean” that “this man stands before you healed.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”   Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, do we have salvation!

John 10:11-18.     Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd, who loves his sheep so dearly that he lays down his life for them in contrast to the hired man who only loves the profit he can get out of it for himself.   Because the good shepherd cares so deeply for his sheep, they have come to know and love him dearly.  The good shepherd wants all sheep to be able to receive his love and caring.  So he reaches out to other sheep who are not of this present fold.  Jesus has learned and acquired the desire to know and to love from his relationship with the Father in which each know and love one another.  Jesus’ love for the sheep has led him to freely offer himself up as a sacrifice on the cross so they may be saved.  His sacrificial offering was in obedience to the will of the Father who is love.  Jesus does all out of love for us.  Jesus pours out his life into us so that we may have life forever.

1 John 3:1-2.   Jesus said in John 3:3b, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  His love for us makes us children of God, begotten by God as long as we draw our life out of his love for us as the source of our life.  In 1 John 4:15-16 we read: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.  We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” Paul writes in Philippians 3:8a, “More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know Jesus personally, our good shepherd who cares for us as his own on our way to heaven through this life that is filled with many dangers.  “What we shall be has not been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he.”  Paul goes on to write in Philippians 3:21, “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”  Through the power of God those who belong to God will be remade into the image and likeness of Jesus.

4th Sunday of Easter – 2018

East4B18.   Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12.  “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said ‘Leaders of the people and elders.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.’”  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:11, calls Jesus Christ, the only foundation upon which we can build.  Otherwise, one’s work will come to nothing.  In the passage in John 10:9 Jesus calls himself the gate to the sheepfold or sheep coral, saying, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  In other words we cannot get into heaven, unless we follow Jesus, who leads us there, as our good shepherd.  In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  Peter spoke filled with the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through him, using Peter as his spokesperson, as God did of the prophets in the Old Testament.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10a, Paul also says he acts “according to the grace of God given to me.”  In 1 Corinthians 3:9a, Paul speaks of himself and Apollos as “God’s co-workers.”

John 10:11-18.  “I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Jesus has laid down his life for us.  No one took it from him but he laid it down on his own because of his infinite love for us.  “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”  He knows us as a loving parent knows their child.  Our daily task is to come to know him just as we know anyone who loves us and in turn we love.  God is not just a celestial being who lives only to calculate our positive and negative behaviors but an intensely loving Father and brother, a real though spiritual person in our lives.  We are called upon to know Jesus just as the son knows the Father and the Father knows the Son, the divine relationship that is the model for us.  As Jesus is the obedient son in what he did for us while in the flesh on this earth so should we be, obedient to our Father.  Jesus’ death on the cross was his loving gift of redemption to us.  Our giving of ourselves to God should be our gift in response to his love for us.

1 John 3:1-2.   “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  The shepherd is shepherding us to become the sons and daughter of God, the Father.  The joy of what he is, he wishes to give to us.  To his good and faithful servants, Jesus says, “Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25: 21c & 23c)  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34b)  “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Taking us to himself in his home, our Father will share something of himself with us, his children, out of his infinite love for us.

 

 

3rd Sunday of Easter – April 18, 2021

East3B21.        Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19.  Peter accuses those present of having Jesus crucified, saying, “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.  Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did”.  Peter continues, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”  Peter proclaims that Jesus has been glorified by the God of the Jews by being given resurrection.  Now Jesus is the author of life, given the authority to give us spiritual life, the resurrection from our sins.  Only the sinless are entitled to live the life that is eternal in heaven.

Luke 24:35-48.  Jesus provides physical proof of his resurrection from the dead by saying: “Touch me and see” and eating “a piece of baked fish.”  His crucifixion and death were the fulfillment of what had been written about him in the Old Testament. “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus says to the disciples.  The purpose for his death and resurrection is to lead us to repentance for the forgiveness of our sins so that we may have eternal salvation.

1 John 2:1-5a.    John wrote, “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”  In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.’” Jesus, personally, living in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, walking with us, guiding us, strengthening us, and protecting us, enables us to live as true daughters and sons of the Father.  Christianity is not a list of things to do but Jesus, a person to be with in the deepest and fullest way.  He must be the author or source of daily life for us.   John ends with the words: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”  To ‘keep his word’ means to do his will.  When we do what he wants of us, we will be perfected, that is made to the fullest of our God-given potential what God in his divine will has made us to be.  Then we will have done what Jesus commanded of us in John 5:48: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

3rd Sunday of Easter – 2018

East3B18.   Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19.   “Peter said to the people: ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.’“  What a wonderful way to announce solemnly that the God who created the Hebrew people as his own has fulfilled what he had spoken through his prophets.  He would send the Christ, the Savior, as a sacrifice for our sins so that all those who repented and converted would have their sins wiped away.

Luke 24:35-48.  The two disciples to whom Jesus had just appeared were recounting to the Apostles their recognizing him in the breaking of the bread, when Jesus himself stood in their midst.  Jesus went through great efforts to prove to them that it was really he, the risen Lord, and not a ghost.  “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”

1 John 2:1-5a.   Jesus has offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice in expiation, atonement or reparation for the sins of the whole world whenever they may be committed.  Since sin offends God who is pure and perfect love for us, who has made us to be loved and become love as he is love, our sins reject God’s love.  Reparation requires that something equal or more of what was taken away be given back.  Offense against an infinite God requires an infinite reparation or sacrifice.  Therefore only God can offer an adequate expiation for sins against God; Jesus, who is God the Son, offers expiation to God, the Father.  When we do what God commands of us, which is the only acceptable way that we have to show that we receive his love, then we treat his love in a way that is truly loving.  To do otherwise is sin.  “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”  He has already given himself on the cross, as our gate way to forgiveness for sin, has a vested interest in pleading for our forgiveness. This world is place of temptation, the home of sin but at the same time the home of redemption from sin.  We have an Advocate who will never fail us when we fail.

2nd Sunday of Easter – April 11, 2021

East2B21.     Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35.   “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  Those resources “were distributed to each according to their need.”  It is my understanding that they were expecting Jesus to come relatively soon and so they were preparing for that coming by living in common without personal possessions. (Please read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.)  What stands out is their great faith in Jesus.

John 20:19-31.   “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”   As Jesus calls upon his disciples to be witnesses to who Jesus is and what Jesus had accomplished, so too the gospels were written to be witness to him and to call us to the faith that will give us eternal life.  Jesus gives his disciples the Holy Spirit who will enable them to bring to people a faith in Jesus.  In receiving the Holy Spirit the disciples are given the power to aid the Holy Spirit in his work of the sanctification of humanity through the power to forgive sins so to turn people from sin so to become the holy children of God.  Thomas, who represents the ordinary down to earth people who have to learn to rise up to heaven even as they walk on the dirt of this earth, rejects the idea of resurrection from the dead as lacking in any commonsense.  Confronting Thomas, Jesus calls upon him and all of us to put our faith in what is divine and not earthly: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”

1 John 5:1-6.  John the evangelist wrote, “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God?”  Followers of Jesus live in the world but do not put our faith in a world that only believes in a life that is from cradle to grave.  The Holy Spirit, who is Jesus’ gift to us, enables us to live in the truth, the eternal reality.  “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments,” that is, we are obedient to his will which is far more than the Ten Commandments.  The struggle to be submissive to his will is the cross that is love.  Jesus showed by his death on the cross that true love comes at a great sacrificial cost.

2nd Sunday of Easter – 2018

East2B18.   Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35.   “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.”  Their oneness was out of their unity in the one Lord Jesus over them.  “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”  This scene occurs after the Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit who gave them great power to help them bring others to believe in Jesus as their Lord.

John 20:19-31.  In this gospel there is a study of contrasts or opposites.  Jesus comes to bring peace to those who locked the doors in fear of the Jewish authorities, who had put Jesus to death and who might put them to death too.  Alone behind those locked doors they were powerless against the powers of this earth but Jesus came to empower them with a heavenly power to forgive sins and to go into the world to bring others to Christ.  Thomas came to believe because he saw with his own eyes the physical presence of the risen Lord; to which Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Belief is the central message of this gospel which ends with the words: “But these (words) are written you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”  Not physical evidence but rather words that testify to the resurrection are given us that through the power of the Holy Spirit that we may have the belief that gives us life in his name.

Jesus says in this Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Jesus in his public ministry made it clear that it made no sense to give the fullness of life to the body yet leave the soul sick in sin.  After having lowered a man on a stretcher through the roof since they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd around him, Luke 5:20 reads: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you your sins are forgiven.”  In Luke 5:24, Jesus continues, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” His forgiveness of us through the sacrament of Reconciliation gives spiritual health to a sick soul so that we “may have life in his name.”  As it says in psalm 118:2, “Let the house of Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.”

John 5:1-6.  This epistle begins, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.”  Belief in Jesus requires that we are no longer people of the ways of this world but rather of the ways of heaven.  In John 3:6, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit.” Jesus continues in John 3:7b, “You must be born from above.” In today’s epistle, John continues, “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.”  Being born of the Father, as his sons and daughters, demands that we love no only God but also his love for us which is expressed in his loving will and direction over us.  Since Jesus Christ is Lord over us, we are subjects of Jesus and not this world.  “The victory that conquers the world is our faith,” that Jesus is Lord and not this world.  Jesus came through the water of his baptism to begin his work of redemption and then through the blood of his cross to complete our redemption.  We do not have to see with our eyes the actual physically risen body of Christ because we have the Spirit who is “the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.”  We have the faith that is given to us by the Spirit and not by sight.  In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul wrote, “We are always courageous, although we know that while we are home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

 

Easter Sunday – April 4, 2021

EastB21.    Easter Vigil – Mark 16:1-7.  The three devoted women arrived at the tomb just as the sun had risen to anoint Jesus’ body to find that the very large stone at the entrance had been rolled back.  A young man dressed in white, traditionally understood to be an angel, said to them, “Do not be amazed!  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.”  The angel tells them to tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter that the risen Jesus will go to see them in Galilee.

Easter Day – John 20:1-9.  Mary of Magdala tells Peter and John that it appears that some unknown people have taken Jesus’ body away to some unknown place.  Peter and John run to find that indeed the tomb was empty; however, “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  Only later when they see the glory of the risen Lord do they come to a full realization of what had happened.

Vigil Night – Romans 6:3-11.  “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” Easter time is the time to remember our baptism and renew our baptismal vows.  This image of baptism comes from the baptism of emersion where one is submerged beneath the waters as a symbol of death to then rise up from the waters as a symbol of resurrection.  “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living to God in Christ Jesus.”  Easter Day – Colossians 3:1-4.   “Brothers and sisters:  If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Our whole mindset and our inner emotional being is geared by the world we are immersed in and the material bodies that we live in, to act, think and be creatures of the natural world and not people who are on our way to heaven, our real and eternal home.  The Holy Spirit enables us to breathe a spiritual life, even while our material bodies breathe the life of this world.  God empowers those who choose to live spiritually in him to live heavenly, holy lives, even while we still live in a natural, material world.

Easter Day – Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43. The Apostles were loyal to Jesus but the crucifixion shook their faith to the core.  Jesus’ appearance after the resurrection and the inflowing of the Holy Spirit into their lives moved them from people of this world with one foot planted in this world and one foot planted in God’s world to being people with both feet  planted in God’s world.  By the Spirit’s grace they were moved to becoming God’s people for whom their lives were based on God living in them.  They belonged to nothing else but the Lord.  They became witnesses to the salvation God brings to all humanity.  May we be the same!

Easter Sunday – 2018

EastB18.   This Easter I would like to bring together ideas in the Vigil Epistle & Gospel and the ‘Mass During the Day’ readings.  In Romans 6:3-11, the immersion that occurs in adult baptism is understood to be symbolic of one’s going down into the grave as a sign of death to sin to rise out of the water as a sign of rising out of the grave to a new life in Christ.  In baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection so that “we too might live in the newness of life,” that was given to Christ and also to us by the glorious power of God the Father.  “If, then, we have died with Christ,” that is to say that “our old self” that was enslaved to sin “was crucified with him,” “we believe that we shall also live with him,” as his holy people in heaven.  We no longer belong to a body that death will conquer and put into a grave or tomb forever.  The tomb with the stone covering the entrance or mouth of the tomb represents the jaws of this earth that has swallowed up our lives; whereas the tomb with the stone removed or rounded back represents the fact that the physical forces of this earth are not able to block or restrain the almighty force of the eternally living God.  “As to his death, he died to sin once and for all (people); as to his life, he lives for God.  Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

In Colossians 3:1-4, Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  To be a people who seek holiness our whole way of thinking must change.  Our whole perspective must change.  We ought to live in this world as if we are already people in heaven, “hidden with Christ in God.” This world is no longer our life; Christ is our life. We belong to something entirely different from this world.  “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, Paul writes, “Celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  We are the fresh batch of dough, unleavened, without the corruption or yeast of this world, made new in the newly risen Christ, recreated sinless and holy through his work of salvation in his sacrifice on the cross.

These Easter accounts do not agree or blend well together, not even within the same Gospel writer.  These remembrances were written much later after the fact, when the writers were much older.  However, the basic ideas agree.  He had arisen; he was no longer dead in the tomb.  Mary Magdalene, especially, had a great love and respect for Jesus, desiring to care for him even in death.  Through the gospels we have physical proof and heavenly proclamation that Jesus had arisen.  Jesus had often told his Apostles that he would die and three days later arise.  They did not get it.   Even after Peter and John were witnesses to the empty tomb, still “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  Jesus understands our human condition and never stops working with us on our way to heaven.

Palm Sunday – March 28, 2021

PalmB21.    Isaiah 50:4-7.   I have been given to understand that this excerpt from Isaiah is a selection from what are called the “Servant-of-the Lord” or Suffering Servant oracles.  Their purpose was to call the Hebrews enslaved in Babylonia to maintain a firm resolve and confidence in the Lord despite the abuses that they were suffering.  The Hebrews were living in a situation where they were subject to great humiliation and degradation.  This reading is given to us this Palm Sunday when the Passion of Jesus is read to invite us see Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Father, as one called by his Father to endure his suffering and humiliation with a deep resolve and faith because in the end the victory would belong to God.

Mark 14:1-15:47.   This gospel reading is titled as the Passion of the Lord.  The word ‘Passion’ here is to be understood as to what had been done to the Jesus by others.  It is the noun that refers to the passive voice in grammar where the action is done by others to Jesus.  He was viciously humiliated, tortured and killed and yet maintained his resolve to fulfill his Father‘s will for him.  Jesus had surrendered himself to be the sacrifice that would redeem the human race from our sins: past, present and future.  His self-sacrifice or submitting himself to the Passion satisfied the debt we had accumulated and will accumulate by our sins.  1 John 4:10 reads: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”  The Old Testament Law required a continuous line of sacrificing animals or offering up cereal offerings.  With Jesus’ Passion all that was done away with once and for all. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

Love means many things in this world; however, for the followers of Christ, the crucifix is our definition of love.  Jesus went to Gethsemane with Peter, James and John.   He “began to be troubled and distressed.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful even to death.’”  Realizing the horror he was about to undergo, he was so extremely distraught that he thought he was going to die then.   Jesus “prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, ’Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.’”  The savagery of Jesus’ passion was real but so was his love for his Father and what his Father wanted of him.  The whole purpose of divinity taking on human presence in this world was to accomplish our redemption because of God’s love for us.  True love demands doing whatever it takes to be loving.   The old saying is that freedom isn’t free.  True love, more often than not, demands sacrifice, giving up what we want for ourselves so that others might have what they need.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Philippians 2:6-11.   Jesus humbled himself by rejecting any heavenly exemption from deprivation or suffering, “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  The love for us given to Jesus in his humanity by his divine Father enabled him to endure the horrific humiliation on his way to the cross and the cross itself.  “Because of this, God greatly exalted him” and so we adore him and worship him confessing “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

Palm Sunday – 2018

PalmB18.   This Sunday I do not want to go from reading to reading but to connected ideas from all the readings.  For me the basic theme is that God was obedient or a servant to his own love for us.  He could not and cannot help do but what his own infinite love calls him to do.  God the Father had his own Son, come into our midst as a helpless baby, totally dependent on his mother’s care for him so to eventually submit to unspeakable horrors as a sacrifice to open the gates of heaven to us, his loved ones.  God’s almighty power is humble so to invite us to be love as he is love, never coercing or overwhelming us; otherwise we would never be able to be love as he is love.  How can infinite power be humble?  Infinite love settles for nothing else!  “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave;” “He humbled himself, becoming obedient,” even to the point of death on the cross. John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was so “troubled and distressed,” praying “that if it were possible the hour” or time of horror “might pass by him that he said,” “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”

Although Jesus comes into a world that he himself has created, yet he now comes dependent on the love and generosity of others to accomplish his work.  As a baby he lived in someone else’s stable.  Though King of the universe, he must borrow someone’s donkey to ride into Jerusalem.  He was to be buried in a linen cloth and in a tomb that were all donations out of love for him and not belonging to him.  For his Passover supper he depends on someone else for the loan of an adequate room.  He chooses to depend on us to accept the gift of himself in Eucharist, to open up our hearts in love for him.

However, love can never be presumed.  Some choose to love; some do not.  Despite the fact that he came into this world to bring his love to the people he created so that they could live one day in the joy of heaven as the children of God the Father, they crucified him.  They rejected his love and in turn hated him.  He put his love, his very self, into the hands of those he loved and they murdered him for it.  In the end they destroyed themselves and not him.  Judas Iscariot, despite the fact that he saw all the miracles that Jesus generously worked for the good of people who so dearly needed them, blinded by his desire for material wealth, has no idea whom it is that he is betraying.  The Jewish authorities who so craftily engineer the crucifixion of Jesus to maintain their own position of authority over the Jews reject the authority of the God who established Judaism.  Pilate, despite the fact that he recognizes the innocence of Jesus, lets the threat of the mob overwhelm his sense of justice because it seems to him that Jesus is a ‘nobody’ who is not worth the threat of a riot to be worth saving.  Because love requires the call to lead others to love freely, without coercion, God’s love leads him to be vulnerable, to step back so that those who are loved might be filled with the love they have just received so they respond in love.  Those who love will quite often suffer because true love invites the one who receives the love to respond lovingly but cannot require that response forcibly.  It must be freely given.  That opens the one who initiates the love to suffer rejection, to receive or suffer a response that is not loving.  The response Jesus received after his many miracles to cure those who were in need and after coming into this world to bring all humanity to heaven was: The soldiers “clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  They began to salute him with, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.”  He showed his love for them but they, in turn, showed their hate for him.

Jesus reflects outwardly the last temptation that he hears within himself from the devil, when he shouts out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his deepest sufferings he rejects the devil’s temptation to despair, humbly dying obedient to the Father on the cross.  The victory was his!  The witness to that victory was the pagan Roman centurion, who stood facing Jesus and seeing “how he breathed his last,” said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  When Jesus began his public ministry, he announced in Mark 1: 15, “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  The choice is ours to live out.  Live in Christ’s love daily so to live in God’s love forever.