I find the 8th chapter of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans to be one of my favorites. So much of this chapter is a consoling reminder that in all of the chaos of our lives, God loves us, has a plan, and cannot be separated from us. During some difficult times in my life, I have found this chapter to have helped me through tough things a lot.
Today the second reading is a part of this letter. And it reminds us that in the midst of the hardships of our lives, nothing is more powerful than the love of God. Nothing. And this should serve as a powerful reminder that we never are meant to face things alone.
Now this is not to minimize our struggles. There are some struggles that are quite powerful. They are overwhelming. It is easy when I think of what others are going through to wonder how it is even possible to survive something like what they are going through. So the letter of Saint Paul is not meant to be some pablum, sweet and syrupy. It is not magical, like a teddy bear that can solve all of our problems. Rather, it is a real relationship that itself challenges us to be more faithful. And that too is not easy.
Every year the Second Sunday of Lent provides us with one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, either from Matthew, Mark or Luke. If Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans is supposed to remind us of what God can do in our lives, then the story of the Transfiguration reminds us of the proof that this is true. God gives us the most important thing we need, his love, but the Transfiguration reminds us that God has also given us more. Jesus loves us to be sure. But in the Law and the Prophets, in the Gospels and the Letters we can see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
And because of the resurrection of Jesus, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we have more concrete gifts. The shadows of the holocausts of old are now made clear in the new sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, sacrificed once for all so we can live eternally. God lays out for us the way to live that invites us to enter into the powerful relationship that is fueled by the love of God, a God who is more powerful than anything that could possibly stand in its way.
To this end, it serves as a reminder that God is so far beyond us that we must beware of falling into the trap of thinking we know more than God. We must avoid the trap of thinking that Jesus is just a little better than we are. We must avoid the trap of minimizing the miraculous activity of God in our world. Saint Paul is seeking to remind us of the infinite power of God’s love, and more importantly, to remind us that the infinite love of God is powerful enough to break through any sin and suffering of our lives. It is only in the context of accepting the infinite love of God that our reading of the bible comes alive. It is only by accepting that God can conquer any hardship in our lives that the power of the sacraments becomes truly real. And it is only in dying to sin that we are born into eternal life.