Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
For the past month we have been reading from the eighth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Today he brings it to an incredibly powerful conclusion, a conclusion that is both deeply reassuring and challenging.
St. Paul speaks into the very situations that the new believers, these early Christians, these people of “the Way” as Deacon Kyle reminded us last week, were facing. These new Christians were being confronted with opposition from family members, from fellow Jews and most of all from the society in which they lived.
These early Christians, these first followers of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, this mystical body of Christ—the Church, were being persecuted, rejected, driven out of the synagogue and driven into prison.
St. Paul speaks directly into their situation and asks a penetrating question, speaking into the very heart of their fears, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?”
St. Paul asks, because so much seemed to be separating them from everything and everyone else. Because following Jesus, though he has transformed their lives, they now found themselves in a mystical reality that were so contradictory to the forces of the society of their daily lives.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus speaks directly to our hearts through St. Paul this morning. Jesus, who fed the 5,000, now feeds us. We are being challenged with the very same question yet asked in a slightly different way. Not, “what will separate us from the love of Christ,” but rather, “What is separating us from the love of Christ?”
What are we allowing to get in the way, to wedge itself into our relationship with Jesus and separating us ever so slightly or decisively from Jesus Christ?
We are assaulted and confronted with so many things, so many situations, so much rhetoric and so much opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ and of his Church that want to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Satan is the great deceiver, the Prince of lies, the one who separates us from the truth. Satan does not want us to believe what St. Paul proclaims.
Satan wants to separate. Satan wants to divide. Satan wants us to oppose one another. Satan wants us to discriminate. Satan wants us to judge. Satan wants to confuse. Satan wants us to be afraid. Satan does not want us to believe. Satan does not want us to pray. Satan does not want us to celebrate the sacraments. And it seems as if Satan is getting his way.
Into our present reality, St. Paul boldly proclaims, “No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that nothing…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Caesar was a conqueror. Alexander the Great was a conqueror. The early Christians hardly seemed to be conquerors. In the eyes of the culture of the day, they were the conquered ones. They were the ones who are being thrown into prison. They were the ones who are being made sport of in the Coliseum. They were the ones who were being tortured and killed. They hardly seemed to be conquerors.
Jesus, their leader died an ignoble death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. St. Paul himself was beheaded by the same Empire. The blood of martyrs flowed for the first three centuries. Yet where is that Empire today?
The real conquest was over the greatest enemies of all: sin and death. Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, conquered and redeemed. Because of our baptism into Christ, we share in his victory, no matter what befalls us in this life.
My sisters and brothers, do not be conquered by anxiety, fear, discouragement, family disagreements, societal implosion and a self-mutilating culture that cannot see its own illness.
Suffering and death are not the worst things that can happen to us. Losing our souls, selling ourselves into the slavery of modern-day relativism and secularism, cultural atheism and thus losing heaven is the worse. To be separated from the love of God for all eternity is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to us.
God will never separate himself from us, but we can from him. Let not Satan tempt and then conquer us.
Let not anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, not height, nor depth, nor any other creature separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. This is the truth of Jesus Christ. Let us hold fast to our profession of faith.
We indeed are conquerors in with and through Jesus Christ. Amen.