Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent (Cycle B)
Whenever we stare up into the night sky, we cannot help but think that amidst all the stars appearing to be randomly strewn across the dark canvas of space, there is order.
Even as we observe these cosmic bodies perform seemingly erratic and incomprehensible cyclical or oscillating movements, all this motion can be described in metered dynamics: The journey of each orb through space and time can be measured with such a precision that it is quite difficult to conclude that cosmic movement is purely coincidental. Every planet and star seem to be internally wired to dance to a specific rhythm not dictated by itself, but only in relation to the positions and actions of other bodies surrounding it.
The cosmos is thus, a living canvas not only of mathematical predictability, but also of perfect harmony. The universe consists of planets and stars traveling across the vacuum of the heavens, driven by forces that are in a delicate balance with one another. No one body moves according to its own volition, but is propelled by the energy between them, such that all bodies are kept from becoming obstacles to each other.
The order of the cosmos reflects the order of God. All matter is subject to the energy of the Spirit; all matter follows the Spirit, so that nothing of any significant substance becomes a hindrance to anything else. Matter moves according to the energy that sustains harmony; if matter moves against the energy of the Spirit, then disharmony and chaos will result.
God’s love for all creation may be said to be expressed in that spiritual energy that sustains harmony; his mercy is expressed in the energy that balances and restores creation from disharmony; his providence is expressed in the energy that allows creation to live out through a perfect cosmic order its optimum usefulness until the appropriate time comes for it to return to him. Only through this energy – which we can also comprehend as God’s grace — can harmony be attained; we cannot attain harmony, nor can we avoid disharmony on our own.
Since only God’s grace can help us achieve it, the harmony of the kingdom of God is thus, a precious gift. Harmony —as well as the kingdom itself — is a “gift” because ideally, it represents something which God can choose not to give. In faith however, we believe and hope that he never chose or will choose to exercise that option; in fact, we believe and hope that God continues to offer this gift, in spite of our repeated refusals.
The lesson of the Babylonian exile of God’s people, if seen from the lens of spiritual infidelity, is the story not of a weaker nation enslaved by stronger neighboring empires, but of a people who has been repeatedly unfaithful to God and has rebelled against all which symbolized him. But, may we be warned that the story of Israel’s unfaithfulness is also the story of our own refusal of God’s offer of his gift of the kingdom of harmony.
Like the Israelites, our rejection of God is manifest in many ways. Not only have we defiled his Holy Name and Presence, we have also effectively removed him from helping us through our daily affairs: ow many people nowadays can go through a regular day without even thinking about him? Haven’t we begun to be attracted to other pleasures, that his divine companionship is no longer needed? Are we not already persecuting those who have received his gift, and are now trying to speak for him, in behalf of the kingdom he is trying to establish for our sake? Have we become agents of chaos and disharmony, lurking beneath and hiding from the Light that will expose our crookedness? Like the Israelites, we must also be warned that God can easily refuse us as well. The time will come — which we pray will never happen — when we will be left by him “to go into exile,” so that we may learn to value his importance and lament his loss.
In his dialogue to Nicodemus, the Christ revealed that he is the embodiment of the grace of God who unravels the gift of the harmony of his kingdom, through his teachings on living a life of love and service, and through his acts of healing to uphold justice and restore harmony in his creation. He also revealed that God himself initiated this act of compassion of deciding to live among us, so that we are all brought under the Light that will guide us in our return to him.
It is in this season of Lent that we are given the chance to voluntarily “go into exile,” to reflect upon the Father who never abandoned us, even if we have already persistently attempted to completely abandon him. Lent is the opportune time to remember the benevolence of the Lord, and when Easter comes, to seriously reconsider accepting the gift of harmony and fulfilling the promise of the kingdom. Condemnation is therefore the consequence of our conscious and willful decision to accept or refuse God’s gift, by choosing to follow or not to follow what the Christ did. Condemnation cannot come from the judgment of God; it comes merely from one’s own.
Let our prayer then be as the Psalmist implores: May I suffer if ever I reject you again, my God!
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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