Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blazing Like Fire

Without the sun, life on earth would be impossible. With the light that it emits, we are able to see. Plants receive nourishment from its rays. We are warmed by the heat it sends to earth. Through our modern technology, we are even able to transform energy from the sun into electricity and use it to heat our homes.

However, the same sun that sustains our life can also harm us. If we are in it too long, our skin burns. Many car accidents are caused by drivers who are blinded by the sun’s glare in their eyes. If we were to look directly into the sun for too long a period, our eyes would be damaged.

The sun is an indispensable element for life on Earth. However, at the same time, its power can harm us when we do not respect it.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Malachi compares God to the sun. Like the sun, God is indispensable for life. Without God the Creator, nothing would exist. Furthermore, He sustains all creatures in being. From His providence, we receive everything we need to nourish our existence. Everything comes to us from His goodness. If we follow His commandments and seek to do His will, we can be assured that more good things will come our way. As He says to us through the prophet, “...for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”

However, if we do not respect God’s law and His power, then, like the sun, we will find ourselves unable to stand before His brilliance and glory. If we are not used to walking in the light of His truth, then our eyes will be blinded before Him. If we have not sought out the warmth of His loving presence, then we will try to hide from the heat of His rays. As the prophet Malachi tells us, “...the day that is coming will set [the proud and all evildoers] on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch.”

This is a truth which all of us most reflect on during our lives here on earth. One day we will all stand before the Lord. He will reveal Himself to us in all His glory. There will be no more question as to whether or not He exists, whether or not He is all-powerful, or whether or not He is good. We will see with our own eyes the beauty and majesty of our Heavenly Father.

As we stand in the light of His presence, the truth of our lives will be revealed to us. If we have loving hearts, we will warm ourselves in the glow of His warm presence. However, if we have hearts filled with resentment, bitterness and jealousy, we will shrink before His mercy and goodness. If we have dedicated ourselves to the service of others, then we will rejoice in recognizing Him as the one we have served in the poor and needy. On the other hand, if we have been selfishly focused on our own interests, then He will not recognize us.

In the light of God’s goodness, we will see ourselves as we really are. All the pretenses to self-importance we may have had, all the virtues we thought we possessed, all that seemed important will look pathetic in the brilliance of His glory. When we see ourselves as we truly are for the first time, we will either choose to run to God for forgiveness or choose to hide from Him because we cannot bear to see our own ugliness. If we have made it a habit of examining our consciences, confessing our sins and making amends for our faults, then we will run into the arms of our Heavenly Father. However, if in our pride, we have made excuses for our shortcomings, overlooked our sins and refused to confess them, then we will try to run for cover at the sight of our nakedness just as Adam and Eve did when they were caught red-handed eating from the Tree God had forbidden them to eat from. However, this time, there will be nowhere to hide.

We often hear people ask, “How can a good and loving God send anyone to Hell?” There is some truth to this question because our Heavenly Father wants all of us to be saved and to spend eternity with Him in heaven. At the same time, He will not force us. He has given us this life to make the choices which will decide our eternal fate. If we have made good choices, if we have strived to serve others, if we have taken advantage of the graces He has given us through the Church, then we can be sure that we will be able to stand in the radiance of His glory and run into His loving embrace. If, however, we have ignored His word, if we have sought to do our own will, if we have closed our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters, then we will be blinded by the light of His presence and will flee from the searing rays of His truth.

Every choice we make has eternal consequences. It either draws us closer to God or pulls us away from Him. It either strengthens our vision to take in the radiance of His glory or makes our eyes so used to the dark that we will be blinded in the glare of His truth.

At the same time, there is no need for us to live in fear. None of us is so good that we can withstand God’s judgment on us. None of us, when called to give an account of our lives, can claim to be perfect. That is why God sent His only Son to die for us. He took upon Himself the punishment that each of us deserves. Through His blood our eyes are cleansed to look upon the glory of God and not run away in shame. Because we have forgiveness of our sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can run to God, not run from Him, because we are confident of His loving mercy.

Here, in this place and at this time, we can turn to God. If we have not lived a good life, there is time for us to change. If we have already given our hearts over to Him, we can grow in our ability to live His truth. Today is the day to train our eyes to look upon His glory, to strengthen our hearts to trust in His mercy and to equip our minds with the truth needed to affirm our faith in His goodness. Then we can approach Him with love rather than fear and with trust rather than shame.

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