06 April 2011

Unbroken Promise

4th Week of Lent (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

Politicians make promises. It's what they do. And they usually fail to keep their promises. That's also what they do. We expect politicians to tell us what we want to hear and then do whatever they think will benefit themselves. . .until election time rolls around again and the promises start falling like snow during a Chicago winter. Smart voters listen, filter out the rhetoric, review the facts, and weigh the promising politicians' worth against their own enlightened self-interests. More often than not, we end up voting for the one we believe to be the lesser of two evils. Promises, charisma, and ideology aside, politicians are fallible human beings just like the rest of us. We might hope that they will do what's best for us all, but we aren't likely to bet the farm on them doing so. Contrast the promising politician with the Lord Who abides with us through His covenant. The Lord says to Isaiah, “In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you. . .Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves!. . .I will never forget you.” To seal the promise of His covenant, the Lord does more than print up artsy posters and produce creepy Youtube videos. The Lord gives His promise flesh and bone; He sent His promise among us, in the form of a slave, to live and die as one of us. That promise, Christ Jesus, is not a breakable pledge; he is not a promise that goes unfulfilled. 

In one of his most daring lectures to the Jews, Jesus says outright that he is God, equal to the Father, and sent as His instrument for our judgment, “. . .the Father [does not] judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” The Jews who heard him say this must have thought he was possessed or suicidal. Here's some guy born to two nobodies from some podunk town out in the sticks actually proclaiming for all to hear that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Not only is he claiming to be the same God who spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, he's claiming divine authority to pass judgment on sin, to raise the dead, and grant eternal life! The Jews—who know the Law and the Prophets and who know that the Lord will send His Anointed One—they aren't shocked by the idea of a Messiah. What must've shocked them is the idea that God Himself is the Messiah, and that He would choose to fulfill the promises of His covenant in person, in a person. That person, Jesus of Nazareth, both God and man, is the covenant made flesh, the promise of eternal life given a body, a mind, a soul, everything we have except sin.

None of us—I hope—is shocked when a politician breaks his/her campaign promises. We expect it. Fallible human beings lie, cheat, steal, and look out for themselves. It's what we do. God's promises are an entirely different story, different not b/c we're sure that He wouldn't lie to us but different b/c His promises are already fulfilled. We aren't waiting to see if God keeps His word; He has already given us His Word. He gives it to us everyday, all day long: in the gift of continuing life; the gift of drawing us closer to Him through His love; the gift of His body and blood in the Eucharist; the gift of His relentless mercy in the face of our nearly equally relentless sin. Jesus says that he seeks to do the will of the One Who sent him. And the will of the One Who sent him is that we return to Him freely in love. Christ has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish his Father's will for us. . .if we choose to believe on His promise, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

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