February 17, 2015
Tuesday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time
When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,
and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil,
he regretted that he had made man on the earth.
When we read: “God regretted that he had made man on the earth,” our first thought might be, “Can you blame him?” When we look at the history of the human race, are there more pluses or minuses?
Does our answer depend on whether we are looking at the daily news or at our grandchildren?
Either way, the truth is, the pluses have it. But the ultimate deciding factor is Jesus Christ.
Take Jesus out of the picture, and even if we don’t believe in life after death—or perhaps especially if we don’t believe in life after death—life goes to hell in a handbasket. What is there to live for? What is there to die for? William Empson captured the mood in his poem, “Just a Smack at Auden”:
Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end.
What is there to be or do?
What’s become of me or you?
Are we kind or are we true?
Sitting two and two, boys, waiting for the end.
Shall I build a tower, boys, knowing it will rend
Crack upon the hour, boys, waiting for the end?
Shall I pluck a flower, boys, shall I save or spend?
All turns sour, boys, waiting for the end…
Shall I make it clear, boys, for all to apprehend,
Those that will not hear, boys, waiting for the end,
Knowing it is near, boys, trying to pretend,
Sitting in cold fear, boys, waiting for the end?...
Jesus makes the difference. The name “Jesus” means “God saves.” God chose to save rather than destroy when he told Noah to build an ark and put in it “a male and its mate” of “every moving creature” he had made, in order to preserve a “remnant” of every form of created life.
Search the 77 occurrences of “remnant” in the Bible (NRSV translation): God will never allow his people to be utterly destroyed or to become one hundred percent unfaithful:
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save (Isaiah 46:3).
No matter how unfaithful Israel was, Ezekiel could pray: “Ah Lord GOD! will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” and God answered:
I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered… I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them… Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Jesus is God’s fidelity made flesh. Once God became a human in Jesus, there was no way God could ever abandon the human race. “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth (hesed and emet, “kindness and fidelity” or just “enduring love”) came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
Neither sin nor death can ever prevail over the body of Christ on earth. Jesus told his followers: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).
Jesus is the one sent “to guide our feet into the way of peace” and “to teach the way of God in accordance with truth” (Luke 1:9; Matthew 22:16).
Jesus is the truth that prevails over error: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Jesus is the life that triumphs over death: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
He summed up his saving role during the Last Supper: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
This means that when we don’t know where to go in life or what values to follow, we turn to Jesus the Way. When we are misled, confused or in darkness, we go to Jesus the Truth. When we feel our lives are aimless, unsuccessful or futile, we find fulfillment in Jesus the Life. He is the one who saves our lives on this earth from veering off to destructiveness, distortion, mediocrity and meaninglessness. In Jesus “God saves” by acting with us, in us and through us so that we, and others because of us, might “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
The first and last question we need to ask—the Alpha and Omega of our life story, and all the letters in between—is: “Do I choose to let Jesus be ‘God saves’ for me?”
Pray all day: “Jesus, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me.”
Practice: No matter what you are doing, ask yourself how your relationship with Jesus saves it from destructiveness, distortion, mediocrity and meaninglessness.
Discuss: What does my relationship with Jesus Christ do for me?