What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For your name's sake act in my defence;
in the goodness of your love be my rescuer.
For I am poor and needy
and my heart is pierced within me. (R./)
Help me, Lord my God;
save me because of your love.
Let them know that this is your work,
that this is your doing, O Lord. (R./)
Loud thanks to the Lord are on my lips.
I will praise him in the midst of the throng,
for he stands at the poor man's side
to save him from those who condemn him. (R./)
Some Pharisees said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.'
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Coming up to Halloween, we might ponder if there really is a world of invisible spirits surrounding us. The Apostle Paul sees life as a battle between good and evil forces, in which we are all engaged. But it's a battle we can wage with confidence because Christ is on our side. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" With his assurance that nothing outside ourselves can separate us from the love of God, Paul does not dispense us from the struggles of life. Dilemmas and problems will still face us but they are no reason for despair. With the help of Jesus we can meet each challenge as it comes.
He reaches a high level of eloquence abut how Christ helps us in every circumstance. Whatever trials we may face, we are "more than conquerors because of him who loved us." The love of Christ is the secret ingredient that always tilts the balance in our favour. Paul evokes the passion of Jesus and the love which prompted his total acceptance of the the cross on our behalf. So he asks rhetorically: "Will not the God who gave his own Son for us, grant us everything we need?"
The gospel recognizes the certainty of Jesus' destiny with death, and his struggle to accept it. He knows that "No prophet can be allowed to die anywhere except in Jerusalem." Yet the malice of the leaders in Jerusalem does not make Jesus hate that city. Instead, he feels a mixture of love and sorrow for the city and its inhabitants, many of whom will die by the sword a few decades later. How he would have wanted to gather them together and bring them to God. It is equally his wish to gather and lead each of us into the kingdom of God. We welcome his help with open arms and open hearts.
Jesus compares himself to a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings. How he wished to gather the people of Jerusalem together and show them the way to safety and salvation. Tragically, Jerusalem refused to be gathered and shown the right way. He expresses his powerlessness in face of their refulal. His longing to gather and save the people went unfulfilled, because they refused to listen to him. Jesus was greatly distressed that they preferred their traditions rather than the gospel.
He cannot bring people where they do not wish to God. Of course the existential mystery of human freedom affects each of us, individually. God needs to find in us some desire for salvation, if our lives are to be fulfilled. Even though Paul said that "nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ," he also taught that we must fight the good fight and coperate with the grace of God. With the Psalmist we can pray to the Lord, "save me because of your love."