Believe in This Forgiving God Embrace with Hope and Joy

12-05-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We must always remember that the word "gospel" means "good news". This weekend our scripture abounds in "good news". We must remember as followers of Jesus Christ to spread His Good News to one and all by our daily words and actions.

It is believed that Baruch who was a follower and scribe to the great prophet Jeremiah overall composed the Book of Jeremiah, but in fact did not write the Book of Baruch which is named in his honor. This particular book is a distillation and blend of the prophetic words of both Jeremiah and Baruch. Baruch is generally granted authorship of many portions of the Book of Jeremiah. To complicate authorship a little more, the final version of this Book of Baruch was settled some 400 years after the death of these prophets. At that point in time, the Hebrew people had returned from exile, the decimated and burned land of Israel had come back to life and the City of Jerusalem had been restored, standing tall and proud once again before the entire world. The theme of our first reading is about God's care and also the coming of God's even more universal salvation. All of this is Good news for everyone

In contrast to Baruch's "holy city", Saint Paul in the second reading speaks of "holy people". Paul says that the Philippians are rooted in Christ and as a result that they will ripen in Him and bear sweet fruit. The now prisoner Paul rejoices in the faith of the followers in Philippi. The now suffering Paul reaffirms for them that their care for one another will prepare them well for the coming of the Lord.

Today's readings announce loudly and clearly the themes of universal salvation through forgiveness of sins. Our faith certainly rests on these themes and truths. Jesus spent his entire ministry trying to convince us of these truths and also inviting us to make them our mission and purpose in life. Sadly, we seem to resist. For really unfathomable reasons we consider universal salvation too inclusive and also forgiveness too hard and too simple. We seem to consider ourselves and others as unworthy because salvation and forgiveness are without cost to us. We really do not trust anything that is free, we always expect a catch.

We find it much easier to believe in a punishing and avenging God. Punishment is so easy to believe in. We see reprisal and retribution all the time around us. As a result we do not really accept forgiveness and inclusive redemption in our minds and hearts; our actions contradict our spoken belief in forgiveness and redemption. People who truly believe in a God of love accept that he destroyed and destroys sin and shame. He makes the crooked way straight, the rough road smooth, the high low and the low are lifted up. Justice and mercy are daily virtues that are in our lives. People who believe in this forgiving God embrace with hope and joy Emanuel. For them Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ is a time of deep joy for the Lord has come for one and all.