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Only Jesus Would Do


“Men forsook God, and made carved images of men. Since therefore an image of man was falsely worshipped as God, God became truly Man, that the falsehood might be done away.” ~ Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

Today’s opening quote, spoken by none other than the man who’s Feast our church celebrates today, certainly dovetails perfectly with today’s 1st Reading (Exodus 32:1-14) if for no other reason it foreshadows God’s ultimate and most powerful response to the age-old plague of idolatry. For it is in this passage that we find a God so enraged with anger that He is on the verge of unleashing the blaze of his wrath upon a Nation that has, to quote our Psalmist (106) today, rather inexplicably “exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.” An abysmal trade by any measure, exacerbated only by what is soon to be the fleeced Israelites earthly demise.

But it’s Moses to the rescue, approaching his furious God with a final plea for mercy, logic his last-gasp weapon of choice. “Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth’? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” We soon find out that Moses’ appeal fInds favor with God, for he promptly relents in rendering the punishment he had threatened to inflict.

God’s patience and mercy are certainly on full display in today’s passage from Exodus but it’s also important to point out that herein lies yet another example of God seeking his most beloved creation’s cooperation in accomplishing that which is his will. We see this every day in our great Catholic Churches by way of the celebration of the Holy Mass. For it is in the Mass where we the faithful bring to God the Father the simple gifts of bread and wine, the work of our hands, which he in response ~ by the power of the Holy Spirit ~ returns to us as the body, blood, soul and divinity of his Son. God has no need for our assistance in this task or any other for that matter, yet he cherishes it. This too is a sign of his great love for us.

Throughout Scripture and particularly during this Lenten Season we have read stories of those who have sinfully rebelled against God. Oftentimes these stories become tales of redemption and there are without question always valuable lessons to take from them. But as we approach Easter Sunday, we are reminded that God’s ultimate plan for mankind was far more profound than simple case-by-case acts of mercy or lives rooted in the depravity that overtook the Israelites in today’s 1st Reading. As the words from Saint Cyril that kicked off today’s reflection clearly indicate, God chose to “meet us where we were” as the expression goes, to reveal Himself to us but not on His terms, instead humbling himself to do so on our terms.

God did not become a brontosaurus to save brontosauruses. Nor did he become a cherry blossom tree to save cherry blossom trees. Or a baby seal to save baby seals. He became man, and only man, out of love for man. He did so for reasons that at times, quite frankly, escape me. It would seem as though we have many times over forgotten or simply don’t believe the old adage “To whom much is given, much is expected.“

But those whose lives are rooted in the reality of Jesus as Savior live lives of purpose. To them, Jesus’ life is not a fairy tale but instead the story of a true friend. They come to realize that they are not merely wandering aimlessly in the desert as many of the Israelites thought. They’re on a journey home to the Father’s House. The commandments are part of the Father’s roadmap, given lovingly to us in order to assist us as we go. A transformed Christian does not view them as restrictions to be skirted, rationalized away or simply ignored. They struggle with them at times of course, stumble and fall definitely, but they get back up and try again armed with full and total confidence in Jesus’ love for them. As author Todd Stocker once said, “A sunrise is God’s way of saying ‘Let’s start again.’”

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Ultimately God, it would seem, had no choice but to send his Son. Nothing else would suffice. Those of you who drive Interstate 95 in the southern part of our country might enjoy, as I do, the evangelical billboards that line the highway. One of them, a favorite of mine, simply says “Don’t Make Me Come Down There.” ~ God. Fact is, He already has, doing so in the form of His Son and by virtue of the Holy Trinity

Are we living in the final days? I surely don’t know, but we are without question in the end days In sending his beloved Son Jesus to usher in these end days. God clearly saved the best for last. Now is an acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2) to return to Jesus, to be transformed by him.

No one else is coming. No one else is needed.

Saint Cyril, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.

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