The power of the Gospel

Second Sunday of Lent.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The second reading for this second Sunday of Lent taken from the Letter to Romans is a reminder of the power of the Gospel. “If God is with us, who can be against us?” asks St. Paul. In that same chapter 8 of the same epistle, he would go on to ask rhetorically, “who can separate us from the love of Christ?” Earlier in verse 28 he had offered reassuring words: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”

We, Christians, need to be aware of the power of Gospel to transform reality, to transform our lives and act accordingly. The power of the Gospel does not rest on guns but on the truth and beauty of its message and ultimately, as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading this week, on God Himself. The power of God is not ostentatious, does not bully anybody, but is manifested in service, self-oblation and humility.

It is famously said that Stalin once asked, how many divisions does the Pope have? Of course, he has none. He does not need any. The Church does not seek nor need temporal power because she has the power of the Gospel to back her up. Throughout her rich history, she has been truest to herself and has shone the most when, without regard to human calculation or political considerations, she has proclaimed Christ crucified boldly, teaching in season and out of season everything that the Lord has taught us, offering herself up in humble service to humanity to lead all to an encounter with the living God.

Many Christians in ancient Rome encountered martyrdom because they took St. Paul’s words to heart. If we really believe that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, then much like the recipients of the Letter from St. Paul, the early Christian community in Rome we would not be afraid of living the Gospel in our daily lives, even if that meant risking our lives. Indeed, not even death can separate us from the love of Christ! Therefore, we need to strive to grow in the love that saves us and others. We do that by our actions, our consistent living the Gospel, day in, day out.

In our own times, many Christians also endure all kinds of persecution and scorn, because they strive to be faithful to the Gospel. Some suffer in their careers, some experience the hostility of the world, some are censored, some are bullied, some are tortured and, yes, some are even put to death.

I recently read an article about Hans and Sophie Scholl. They were two siblings who were students at the University of Munich, who were executed on February 22, 1943 because of their non-violent opposition to the Nazi regime. Exactly 75 years ago this past week. Hans studied medicine and Sophie studied biology. Together with other students and some professors, they had formed an organization who called themselves “The White Rose.” Their goal was to promote non-violent resistance to the Nazis and raise awareness about the tragedy of war. Their commitment and that of the other members of this organization stemmed from their baptism. Even though the Scholl siblings were Protestant, many of the members of “The White Rose” were Catholics. Most of them suffered the same fate. They were arrested, summarily tried and sentenced to death.

I was deeply moved by the story of this brother and sister and their fellow students. I am inspired by the fact that, in the most difficult of circumstances, with every odd against them, these young German students still did what they had to do as disciples of Christ, proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season, even at the risk of their lives. Indeed, the force that motivated the Scholls and their fellow members of “The White Rose” was the Gospel, their Christian faith, not ideology or a will to power, but a desire to follow the command of Christ and advance his Kingdom of peace, love, justice and truth. In their fidelity to the Gospel, they rendered a service to humanity.

So it must be with us, our faith must be incarnate, it must inform every single dimension of our lives. It must inform and transform the most private and personal dimension, the way we treat our bodies, and also the most public, the way we conduct ourselves in the public square. In whatever capacity or position we may find ourselves in society our Christian faith has to be the defining force, the criterion and the measure by which we judge the situation at hand and choose among different courses of action. The only cost-benefit analysis that matters when all is said and done is whether or not our actions lead us and others to greater communion with God.

The Lord leads by example. After the Transfiguration he immediately comes down from the mountain to embrace his mission. He knows that it will not be easy, but presses on because His love will prevail.

May our Lenten practices strengthen our resolve to be faithful disciples of Christ, who rely on the power of His love to transform our lives and the entire world!

Fr. Roberto M. Cid