2ND SUNDAY OF LENT.
Reflection by Fr. Alexander Wainaina, SJ, who works at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Kangemi, and at the Health Center attached to the parish.
God wins for us.
St. Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God’s love and care lead us to overcome threats that we do not fully know or expect. Despite our weaknesses or ignorance, God calls us to recognize His unlimited love and perpetual presence to us. For example, HIV/AIDS has threatened the welfare of many people over the years, but God has continued to give people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) greater opportunities to reduce the spread, to prevent or treat opportunistic infections, to overcome stigma, to engage in economic activities and even to become agents of positive change in society. Our victorious God convinces us that there is hope beyond the challenges that we face today because our God, Jehovah- Nissi, wins for us.
In a world where HIV and AIDS have threatened the lives of many people, we have also known that HIV infection does not have the last word in a person’s life. The Bible communicates to us that our Lord is a God of second chances. A wonderful example is illustrated in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. While Abraham was just about to sacrifice his son Isaac, he saw a lamb caught by its horns in the bush. Similarly, some people notice miraculous help from God at a time when they face challenges, e.g., encountering a charitable group that offers medical, psychosocial or economic support to PLWHA. After some people have had traumatic experiences, of illness, loss of jobs and friends, and periods of hopelessness or anxiety, God has opened doors for them and led them to solutions.
If God is with us, who can be against us? In response to the request of God, Abraham was ready to offer his son Isaac although God substituted the sacrifice with a lamb. In accepting to offer his son, Abraham could have asked himself, “If God is with me, how can the sacrifice of my son go wrong? Since God has promised me descendants through Isaac, how can I doubt the instruction of God?” Our faithful God ensured the survival of Isaac. It is common for a person living with HIV to despair in the face of illness; however, faith in God declares that being bed-ridden is not the end. Isaac was lying on a pile of firewood about to be offered, while God was facilitating the alternative plan for Abraham’s sacrifice. God transforms us when we come to Him in the context of faith and accept to be influenced by the miracles that God alone can do. This love of God is the ultimate source of our hope and consolation.
If God says that the HIV virus will not overcome me, how can stigma destroy me? If the laboratory result of viral load is reading “undetectable,” how can the social challenges overcome me, and yet I have a chance to rebuild my level of immunity? Christ gives us hope of victory over many challenges. In fact, Jesus has showed us God’s victory in multiple ways. As the Son of God who was transfigured, who overcame hunger and the devil’s temptations in the desert, who humbled Himself to die for us, and who transformed the lives of the people that cried out to Him for help, Jesus is the Lord who mediates God’s victory over the challenges we face on a day to day basis. As at the Transfiguration, God daily invites us to recognize Jesus’ special status with the words “This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him!” Whenever we pray, or read the Bible, or recognize the love of God in the lives of other people, God repeats that message to us. And the beloved Son of God, who even defeated death, invites us to acknowledge Him, echoing the words of Thomas who said, “my Lord and my God.”
God calls us to participate in the ministry of Jesus and to be caring towards other people, extending God’s love to them and seeing Jesus in them. The Lenten season gives us an opportunity to examine what God has done for us and to notice what God is telling us to do, for ourselves and for others. It is an opportune time to thank God who gives us a second chance in life, as He gave Isaac in the land of Moriah. God’s love shown by Jesus gives us victory over various challenges, even against the incurable illnesses that include HIV/AIDS. We know that the will of God is not for us to suffer pain or loss, but to grow in trust in a loving God who can do infinitely more than we can think of or imagine. May God grant us ability to appreciate His love, and to enjoy the victory He wins for us against our physical and spiritual threats!
Click here for French version: 2e dimanche de Carême