The opening Collect reads: “O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (BCP 218)
The readings from scripture this Sunday are: The Old Testament story is Genesis 22:1-14 which is the story of Abraham’s call to faith. The core of this story is Abraham’s heart and his love for his son. The sacrifice of Isaac took place as God asked. But the altar was deep in the heart of Abraham where his love for God and for his son are found. That love and devotion provided the lamb! The lamb, caught in the bush and offered in place of Isaac is a divine foreshadowing of the offering our heavenly Father will make for our redemption. God loved His world so much that He offered His only Son, Jesus as the true holocaust offering, for in His death comes eternal life.
The epistle reading is Romans 8:31-39. Here we find St. Paul’s powerful words of assurance. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” Those that are cleansed in the waters of baptism and born again in the Holy Spirit now have the grace and means to continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Lord. (BCP 307) The season of Lent is a wonderful way of exploring the commitment and love God has for each of us. “Who or what can separate us” from this love? In our baptismal covenant we have said to Satan straight on that whenever we fall into sin, we will not remain seduced to his tricks and illusions but we will seek the Lord for grace and truth so we can growth through our sins to a greater degree of holiness. (BCP 304 and 309)
The holy Gospel is from Mark 8:31-38. Jesus begins to predict His passion and death and resurrection. To achieve the salvation of souls the Son of Man must undergo many sufferings. He then reminds us that if we want to follow Him, and that means to LIVE the Christian life, we must be willing to deny the culture and take up our cross and move our life in a new direction to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Our “cross” we soon discover isn’t any one thing or offering but it is the totality of our life, our soul and body offered to God as a living and acceptable sacrifice.
Some baptismal themes for this Sunday are centered around the act of daily offering ourselves to our heavenly Father in and through Jesus. In the waters of baptism we were buried with Christ in His death (BCP 306 and Romans 6). Our daily carrying the cross that is deeply imprinted upon our soul (from baptism) is nourished at Mass as “we offer our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to God.” (BCP 336). This self-offering encourages us to press on towards the goal which is our life in God in eternity.