Friday, February 16, 2018

Facing Our Challengers

Dear Friends,

This is a season when we renew our willingness to accept God’s covenant with us. It is truly God’s covenant, not ours. Covenants are always made by the greater with the lesser. Covenants are not initiated by little people like us, but we are the hands-on beneficiaries of the covenant God makes with His people. On this first Sunday of Lent, we read about the covenant God made with Noah (Gen.9.8-15). The sign and seal of the covenant is the bow in the clouds – what we call the rainbow. If we are not otherwise engrossed, will the rainbow make us pause with delight and awe?

Next week, we’ll hear about God’s covenant with Abraham and the week after that, the covenant expressed in the Ten Commandments.

God’s covenant with us is forever. It takes courage to live out life with God this way, because living it out does not go unchallenged.

We meet the challenger of the covenant relationship with God in today’s Gospel. Satan. Satan is a symbol for anyone or anything, for any relationship or situation, for any interpretation of life or way of thinking that hinders us from becoming what Christ wants us to be: His brothers and sister – alive – active on behalf of goodness in the world.

The challenger pursues us, make no mistake about it.

What are the challengers in my life? Pride? Greed? A hard heart? Alcohol? Drugs? Power? Sex? The need to always be right?

What was the challenger in Nicholas Cruz’s life? Who was complicit is his life that allowed him to have an untreated, unrecognized mental illness? What drove him to kill 17 and wound others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14? He is not alone in his misery. Others are stirred in the same way to do irrevocable damage in people’s lives. People thus inflicted with soul-searing damage need advocates imbued with a covenant spirit to help them overcome their need to kill. 

Today’s gospel (Mark 1. 12-15) tells us that Jesus, who was tempted by Satan in the desert, was not overcome. He went on to teach, preach and heal, to give Himself for all for the forgiveness of sin and for life everlasting. Between Satan in the desert and His Resurrection, Jesus stayed close to His Father. He prayed and loved the One who sent him.

That’s the clue for us: this Lenten season, to stay close to the Father of Jesus, to Jesus Himself and to the Holy Spirit. We can face the challenger only through prayer and in this covenant relationship. With Christ, we will not be overcome. Trust God. Be alert to the challenges that come our way. Believe that Easter will come. Watch for the rainbow.

~Sister Joan Sobala