Na 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7 Deut 32:35CD-36AB, 39ABCD, 41 Mt 16:24-28
“Learn then that I, I alone, am God,
and there is no god besides me.
It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them.”
This quote found in the Book of Deuteronomy is a part of our Responsorial for today’s Mass. The sovereignty of God, the Almighty is still a great mystery to us, even today. God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, and whether we like it or not. An 18th century Jesuit, Father Jean Pierre de Caussade pondered this mystery in his famous book, Abandonment to Divine Providence.
He concluded that whether an event is caused by the direct will of God, or it is allowed by the passive will of God, it is the Will of God. The LORD speaks to his people through the prophet Nahum; he gives them a warning. Life, as you know, it will exist no more. This challenge is followed by a great comfort promising full restoration and complete salvation for a repentant nation. We repeat again and again, “It is I who deal death and give life.” Such a paradox is reflected in the Gospel: “For whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” At every Mass we consume the mystery of the LORD’s own body, blood, soul and divinity and at that moment we are consumed by the mystery of the LORD—it is no longer I who live; it is Christ who lives in me.
There is no pity for God’s enemies. There is no one to console Nineveh. The destruction and horror inflected upon Judah will be returned and double fold. The scoundrel is completely destroyed—this is the good news for Israel. This message of Nahum is good news for the New Israel, as well. God is faithful to his covenant and we share in that covenant, the eternal covenant in the Blood of the True Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This divine bloodline is manifest in our deep assurance of God’s mercy for all who fear him. For those who do not fear the Lord, they too will be consumed in the cleansing furnace of divine love. God’s wrath is his extreme love for everyone, even those we consider our enemies. We look forward to God’s will being done to those who oppress us. Do we also look forward to the cleansing fire of that love to make them a new creation? To make them worthy of His Love; transformed by that love? This eternal wedding feast is something worth our own transformation so that we too will celebrate with all the angels and saints in glory. This is good news, even for Nahum.
How is it possible to save our lives by losing our lives? What kind of demand is the Lord Jesus making of anyone who wants to be his disciple? Perhaps we do not know what we are asking—perhaps we do not know what drinking from the Chalice really involves. No long ago we used to raise a toast to congratulate the guests of honor. At a “face to face” wedding the Best Man would offer a toast in honor of the bride and groom. We would indicate a willingness to share in their covenant of love by raising our glasses and drinking from them. The Lord Jesus gave his life when he drank from the chalice in the Garden of Gethsemane. We commit ourselves to such a sacrifice when we allow the Lord Jesus to be the Master, when we live in the fear of the Lord and are not afraid of whatever his will for us demands. Whether we embrace suffering and even death, we embrace the mystery of the cross. In the cross of Christ we live and move and have our being.