BEFORE THE CROSS | God will preserve those who trust in Him

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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We're counting down to Holy Week, and the readings for this week are a kind of Old Testament Top 10. Time and again the innocent face death — such as Susanna when she was falsely accused of adultery. Time and again they put their faith in God — such as Jeremiah when the people plotted against him. Time and again God intervenes — such as sending an angel to preserve Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego when they were cast into the fiery furnace.

The theme for this Top 10 list is clear: put your faith in the Lord and He will preserve your life.

The Gospel readings for the week pick up this theme, but two new elements are added. The first is when Jesus says: put your faith in me and I will preserve your life. It's another way Jesus makes it clear that He is God in the flesh: no one but God can make this claim. The second is when Jesus makes it clear, by His words and deeds, that it isn't only the innocent who will be preserved. Even the sinner who turns to Jesus can be saved. That's great news for those of us who wouldn't have much hope if God only saved the innocent.

But even as the readings teach us these lessons, we learn them in the shadow of the radical transformation they will receive in Holy Week. What transformation? Well, the presupposition of the Old Testament is that if you put your faith in God He will preserve your life in this world. But the experience of Jesus in Holy Week makes it clear that there's another step. If you put your faith in God you may still have to suffer in this life, maybe even lose your life. But you will be preserved — body and soul — for eternal life.

The Old Testament gives us the broadest outline of the pattern: God will preserve those who trust in Him. But the life of Jesus fills in the details and completes the pattern: God will preserve those who trust in Him by bringing them through death to eternal life.

We're invited to follow this path in our lives.

Holy Week will teach us to pray more deeply into the pattern of Jesus' life. Then we imitate it more deeply in our own. The readings this week set us up to do just that.

Reflecting on the Biblical past helps us. When we see more clearly how God has acted in the past — coming through again and again to save those who have faith in him — it helps us trust Him more completely, which helps us follow Him more closely, because even when we don't know all the details of how God will act, we know who God is.

Sometimes He saves us the way He saved Susanna. Sometimes He saves us the way He saved Jesus. But, one way or another, He always saves those who trust in Him. 

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