Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Daniel 13:1-9.15-17.19-30.33-62; John 8:1-11)

Elderly people fear the loss of their minds. When they begin to forget names, they wonder if they are experiencing the effects of Alzheimer’s.  When they no longer have the acuity to resolve conundrums, they believe that the end has begun.  As terrible as loss of mental capacity with age is, it is even more tragic when old people act unwisely.  This is seen in today’s first reading.

The old men lust after Susannah.  They should not be condemned for having sexual desire which does not evaporate with age.  But they are guilty of not controlling it.  They certainly should have gained enough wisdom to recognize that sexual relations must be reserved for marriage.  The young Daniel understands this truth as he cleverly ferrets out the lechers’ scheme. Jesus shows even more perspicacity in the gospel.  He upholds justice as he tells the chastised woman “not to sin anymore.”  More importantly, he teaches that mercy must temper justice.  With a justice that is too strict for mercy, most people would suffer perpetual punishment.

Hopefully we have been chastened by almost five weeks of penance.  After discovering how we offend God in both small and great ways, we can see more clearly the need of mercy.  We are like that miserable woman standing in guilt before Jesus.  Like her as well, we will be sent away forgiven and renewed to live righteously. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Wisdom 2:1a.12-22; John 7:1-2.10.25-30)

Perhaps all of us have had the experience of meeting someone who said he was Jesus Christ.  You probably thought the person demented, and you were right.  Yet Jesus said that he will return to judge the living and the dead.  It might be more prudent, therefore, to listen at least a bit to one who makes the claim.  In today’s gospel the real Jesus confronts inhabitants of Jerusalem who too quickly dismiss him.

The Jerusalemites know that Jesus has brought about incredible healings.  They ask themselves if he might be the long-expected Messiah but reject the idea out of hand because they know his origins.  They likely know as well his “brothers” -- probably male relatives of Jesus – who are present with him.   If Jesus were the Messiah – they reason -- they would not know anything about him.  Of course, Jesus is aware of both their thoughts and their mistake.  He cries out to the effect that they do not know that he comes from God, his Father.  He is also conscious that they cannot arrest him now because his Father has not yet ordained the time for him to accomplish the work of salvation.

Our annual celebration of Jesus’ work of salvation is close at hand.  We are wise to plan our time so that we might delve into the mysteries.  Holy Week should be an extensive period of reflection on how the Son of God has saved us from sin.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47)

The Reformation of the sixteenth century brought forth both good and evil.  It did helpfully emphasize the centrality of Scripture and faith in the Christian tradition.  It also ushered a period of intense division, even religious warfare.  Now it seems that Pope Francis is effecting a new era.  He may become “the reformer of the reformers.”  He seems to be unifying many Christian groups in giving testimony to the Lord with fraternal love and charity.  This stance resembles that of Jesus makes in today’s gospel.

The Pharisees are harassing Jesus.  Believing in their own righteousness, they accuse Jesus of breaking the Law by healing on the Sabbath.  They do not see that he is – quite the contrary -- fulfilling God’s will.  In the first reading the Lord criticizes the people of Israel for being “stiff-necked.”  He gives them the Law as a way to reform themselves.  The Pharisees have embraced the Law but are likewise becoming “stiff-necked.”  They stubbornly refuse to see that they worship an idol of their own making – not a material object but proprieties that substitute for virtue.  Jesus calls their attention to what is truly important – love of God that is expressed by assistance to the needy.

We have left behind the superficial gods of power, pleasure, and prestige.  Now we must press on by engraving ever deeper in our hearts the need to honor God by doing His will.  It is no mean task in a world whose values often seem like a gale blowing against us.  But we will accomplish our objective if we rely on the grace offered us through Jesus Christ in this Eucharist.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30)

In the first three gospels when Jesus is tried by the Jews, he is accused of calling himself the “son of God.”  In the long discourse from John’s gospel today, Jesus defends that position.  Differences between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and the Gospel of John are apparent to all readers.  Typically, however, careful readers find that they relate the same message.

Jesus defends his relationship to God, his Father in two ways.  First, he claims to do the work of the Father which is to give life.  Sons throughout the ages -- and certainly in first century Palestine – have taken upon themselves the occupation of their fathers.  If their father is a fisherman, they likely fish for a living.  Thus, being thought the son of Joseph, Jesus is alternately called the carpenter’s son in Matthew and a carpenter in Mark.  In yesterday’s gospel passage Jesus does the work of God, his true Father, by healing – a form of giving life which is God’s prerogative.  Second, Jesus defends his being God’s son by judging, that is, by vindicating the just.  He does this when he gives eternal life to those who believe in him.

Today’s gospel is prepping us to celebrate the Easter mysteries.  Then we will be challenged to believe the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  Expressing our faith by assenting to this proclamation and living accordingly, we will receive the eternal life Jesus promises.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Ezekiel 47:1-9.12; John 5:1-16)

“See Naples and die!” is a famous dictum proclaiming the glory that once belonged to the southern Italian city.  The readings today suggest a more compelling paraphrase: “See Jesus and live!”

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel anticipates the wonder of the Jerusalem temple.  Solomon’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  Toward the beginning of the exile Ezekiel had the vision of a new temple.  It would be magnificent in structure and contain marvelous properties like life-giving water.  The gospel shows that Jesus exhibits the properties of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.  Earlier in the gospel Jesus referred to his body as a temple to be destroyed and resurrected.  In today’s passage he shows how his restorative power supersedes that of the contemporary temple’s waters.

We must see Jesus as the one who gives us the fullness of life.  He reinforces us so that mundane impulses do not lead our spirits to destruction.  He also brings us to an eternal dwelling place with his Father.  He deserves both our imitation and our trust.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Isaiah 65:17-21; John 4:43-54)

The fourth Sunday of Lent marks a threshold.  No longer will the weekday readings call for prayer, fasting, and forgiving.  Now they center on the life that Christ promises.  The gospel book changes as well.  For almost four weeks one of the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) was used.  Now the Gospel of John presenting Jesus as “the resurrection and the life” is opened for work.

Jesus seems perturbed with the royal official when he says, “’Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.’”  He is wary of people’s faith that is based solely on the miraculous.  Jesus is encouraging the man to believe so that he may have eternal life.  As a matter of fact, the official does so without seeing the miracle take place.  Only the next day does he learn that his son recovered from his “near death” condition. 

Jesus has also given us new life.  Many of us were dead spiritually.  We thought too much of money, food, and prestige to appreciate life’s true meaning.  The disciplines of Lent have hopefully reoriented us correctly.  Now we look forward to experiencing the fullness of life. We should expect not just balance in our daily activities but the joy and peace of caring about one another.  Heaven or eternal life consists precisely in this.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

(Hosea 14:2-10; Mark 12:28-34)

People today often ask, “Who is the greatest?” or, “What is most important?” They believe that if they walk in the footsteps of the greatest person who ever lived or seek what is most important in life, they will not end up disillusioned.  The gospel shows that people of antiquity asked the same kind of questions.

The man asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  It is sometimes said that the first commandments for Jews is to “be fruitful and multiply.”  But Jesus does not concern himself with clever answers here.  He goes right to the heart of the matter.  The first commandment, he says in, “’You shall love the Lord your God.’” And the second greatest commandment is to “’love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

Many of us have difficulty loving God.  Some even say that to love our neighbor is to love God.  Although the two commandments may sound much alike, there is a critical difference.  God is the greatest good – the creator and sustainer of all things.  In faith we know that He exists as the One who loves us despite our many faults.  Because He tells us to love our neighbor, we make the effort to do so.  Even though our neighbors may hurt us, we love them by wanting what is best for them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

(Jeremiah 7:23-28; Luke 11:14-23)

Almost twenty-five years ago Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed a “New Evangelization.”  He said that it would be directed not only to the nations where Jesus is unknown and to Christians who have lost a living sense of their faith.  It would also go out to those who practice the faith!  All people -- good and bad alike -- need to hear God’s call to reform.  Taking His word into account, many who have thought of themselves as good will have to make a new appraisal.  Both Scripture readings today focus on this last group. 

In the first reading Jeremiah laments the reality of his day.  The people of Jerusalem are paying lip service to God.  They may go to the temple, but they do not practice love of God and neighbor that the law tries to instill.  In the gospel Jesus shows compassion when he enables a mute man to speak.  The people around him, however, refuse to acknowledge that Jesus’ power comes from God.  They say to the contrary that he heals because he is in league with the devil.  The passage ends with Jesus condemning those who deny his goodness. “…whoever does not gather with me,’” he says, “’scatters.’”

During the season of Lent, especially, we are being called to a true examination and conviction of self.  We may not be the biggest sinners, most of us at least, but we do gossip and curse others (while driving).  We fail to see the sufferings others undergo and often exaggerate our own challenges. There is plenty of room for improvement which must be made if we are to experience eternal life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

(Deuteronomy 4:1.5-9; Matthew 5:17-19)

Fifty years ago the words law and order had a connotation of severity.  Politicians, sensing public disgust with civil unrest, promised “law and order” if elected.  Today, however, perhaps because of a popular television show with that title, law and order has a more congenial tone.  This change parallels the development of the term law that is seen in the readings today.

The Book of Deuteronomy presents the law as the lifeline of Israel.  Its purpose is to regulate the ways of the people to conform to a public vision of holiness.  It emphasizes the importance of remembering and teaching to posterity the code.  Jesus says that he comes “to fulfill,” not to change and much less to abolish, the law.  He goes beyond outer behavior to inner motives so that people may truly become holy.  It will seem to some that Jesus is exhorting strictness, but that view is narrow-minded.  Jesus means to liberate the human heart from attachments to worldly desires.  In this way people can freely and easily live holy lives.

It is our purpose in Lent to be freed from excessive worldly attachments.  In part this comes about by our efforts to abstain from material goods and to assist those in need.  It also requires prayer – constant and sincere – that the Holy Spirit displace the material desire with a desire for genuine holiness.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

(Daniel 3:25.34-43; Matthew 18:21-35)

Protestants often criticize the Catholic practice of confessing to a priest.  They ask, “Why do you have to tell your sins to a man?  It is God who forgives sins.”  Yes, certainly sins offend God, and He alone can forgive them, but Jesus has given his apostles authority to carry out this function (Matthew 18:18).  There is a further reason.  When a Christian sins, she or he does harm to the Church which is entrusted with the mission of announcing God’s love to the world.  Gossiping, viewing pornography, or cheating on taxes hinders the deliverance of this message.  The readings today present examples of a sincere confession and what proves to be a faulty one.

The first reading pictures Azariah, one of the three Jewish youths chosen to serve the king of Persia, expressing contrition for the sins of his people.  As the prophets tell, God desires such a contrite heart more than sacrifices.  The servant in the gospel parable sounds like he has undergone a change of heart as he pleads with his master for an extension of his debt, but actually he has not.  If he were sincere, he would show the same understanding to a fellow servant who is indebted to him.

All Catholics should go to Confession during Lent whether or not they are in mortal sin.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation humbles us to admit that we make mistakes -- sometimes grave ones -- that divert us from the path of holiness.  Also significant, Reconciliation reminds us that religion is not just a personal affair between God and me but a communal enterprise in which all of us have a role to carry out.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(II Samuel 7:4-5a.12-14a.16; Romans 4:13.16-18.22; Matthew 1:16.18-21.24a)

The Church celebrates St. Joseph’s day as a solemnity.  This means it is given the highest reverence.  At mass both the Gloria and the Creed are recited or sung.  On solemnities in Lent Catholics are not supposed to fast but to rejoice as if it were a Sunday.  This change should not be taken as a corruption of the season but as a reminder that the gospel, which has its challenges, is fundamentally good news.

Not much is said about St. Joseph in the four gospels.  Because Jesus is called the carpenter’s son, it is presumed that Joseph was a carpenter or craftsman.  Very importantly, Joseph gives Jesus his royal heritage as both Matthew and Luke cite him as a direct descendant of King David.  Joseph stands out as a just or righteous man.  In today’s gospel, even before his famous dream, he decides not to cause Mary any trouble by a public divorce.  More self-sacrificingly, he acts on the word of God given to him by the angel when he brings the mother of God’s son into his home.  And when he is told in other dreams to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt out of harm’s way and to move his family to Nazareth, he obeys willingly.

We should see Joseph not just as a righteous builder but the builder of righteousness.  He collaborated with Mary to raise Jesus as a person of fidelity to God’s word.  No doubt he imparted to Jesus a sense of nobility; that is, Jesus had an obligation to serve the good of all.  As we are Jesus’ adopted sisters and brothers like Jesus was Joseph’s son, we can look to him for guidance.  We should find in St. Joseph a model of virtue to emulate and an intercessor to beseech.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Lent (St. Patrick’s Day)

(Genesis 37:3-4.12-13a.17b-28a; Matthew 21:33-43.45-46)

The two readings today are meant to parallel one another.  In the reading from Genesis Joseph is his father’s favorite son.  His brothers hate him for that fact.  To get rid of him they give him to foreign traders.  In the gospel Jesus presents himself as God’s beloved son.  His fellow Jews resent his unveiling of their malevolent desires.  They will have him arrested when the moment is favorable and deliver him to the foreign occupiers of Israel.

Resentment and hatred sour the soul.  They move people to commit atrocities.  They may be purged but at great cost.   Jesus died to redeem his people and the whole world.  St. Patrick made a great sacrifice in returning to Ireland to convert the people among whom he lived as a slave.  Descriptions of his life include mention of the risk that he incurred in carrying out his mission.

During Lent we should make every effort to purge ourselves of resentment and hatred.  First, we need to recognize where it exists.  Perhaps we feel animosity toward people of a particular race, religion, or lifestyle.  We should be fasting in repentance for the times when our hatred took active form.  Finally, we pray to Christ for mercy.  If we take these steps, we may be confident that at the celebration of the resurrection we will be raised from the scum of hatred.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday of the Second Week in Lent

(Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 16:19-31)

A book about cyclist Lance Armstrong gives an anecdote about the fraudulent champion’s penchant for consumption.  On Armstrong’s ten million dollar estate stands a giant oak tree with its branches extending toward his Spanish colonial mansion.  The tree was not originally in its present, grandiose location but was transplanted there from another place on the property at the cost of $200,000!  Although spending so much money on a vain endeavor is hardly Armstrong’s worse fault, it does contemporize the scene in today’s gospel of irresponsible opulence.

The rich man in Jesus’ parable sins neither by having great wealth nor even by having a disproportionate amount in comparison to others.  No, his fault is neglecting the poor man at his door.  Certainly he had enough resources to feed a hundred beggars, but he did not even notice the one that was in his midst.  As Abraham indicates at the end of the story, the man is so blinded by his fortune that he cannot see in the poor the ones whom the Scriptures continually admonish readers to assist.

Opportunities abound for us to help the poor.  Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and ten thousand other institutions call on us for assistance.  But our efforts should go beyond charitable contributions.  We should also seek opportunities to rub shoulders with the poor, to hear their stories, and to share with them a vision of a society where people respect one another.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

(Jeremiah 18:18-20; Matthew 20:17-28)

As in yesterday’s gospel, today’s underscores the need for disciples to serve humbly.  Coupled with the first reading, it indicates that their humility should run so deep that it might withstand treachery.

James and John’s mother sounds callous or, at best, foolish as she approaches Jesus for a favor.  After he reveals the agony awaiting him in Jerusalem, she requests positions of privilege for her sons!  But Jesus shows no outrage.  Rather he asks if the two are ready to join him in suffering.  When they say that they are, he tells them that he does not have the right to promise them anything.  The passage indicates, however, Jesus’ displeasure with the rest of the disciples.  When they display anger with the brothers for allowing their mother to do their bidding, Jesus tells them not to fret over positions of privilege.  Rather they are to concentrate on how best to serve the Kingdom.

When we forget about what we might receive for doing good, we will find ourselves doubly rewarded.  We will come closer to our remote goal of eternal life, and, wonderfully, we will receive temporal favors.  These gifts come, again, after losing ourselves in serving the Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

(Isaiah 1:10.16-20; Matthew 23:1-12)

People today want to be “cool.”  That is, they want to be noticed.  Even if being cool means committing an injustice, they want to be known as someone that matters.  This warped desire conflicts directly with Jesus teaching in today’s gospel.

Jesus is giving instructions to his followers and to Jewish peasants.  He admonishes the former to avoid the hierarchies of the Jewish leaders who vaunt themselves with titles.  He consoles the humble who feel the onus of those same leaders’ laws.  To both groups he recommends service without self-seeking.  He promises them a due reward in their common Father’s Kingdom.

We should be questioning our motives as part of our Lenten examination of conscience.  Do we act to serve others or are our actions motivated by the desire to be looked up to?  Alternatively, do our actions cause others to give thanks to God or do they make their lives more difficult? Now is the time to rectify both motives and deeds.  As Isaiah says, though our offenses be as odious as blood on snow, they may become as pure as lamb’s wool.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

(Daniel 9:4b-10; Luke 6:36-38)

The Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator has been used for decades to help us better understand ourselves.  It operates by people taking a test which measures their different personality types in terms of opposites.  One is evaluated as introvert or extrovert, thinking or feeling, sensate or intuitive, and judging or perceiving.  We may want to ask whether a judging person can abide by Jesus’ commands in today’s gospel.

In a sense no one can stop judging.  People have to make decisions which require an assessment or judgment of the reality which they confront.  When Jesus says to his disciples that they are to “be merciful” and to “stop judging,” he wants them to take good care before criticizing others.  Judging types should become more perceptive and perceiving types should consider the numerous factors which limit perfection.  Most importantly, Jesus wants his followers to forgive one another so that they may work together on behalf of God’s kingdom.  Brewing resentment will impede the pursuit of justice and peace.

We all want due consideration for ourselves when we are being judged.  We should not deny it to others.  If we are to live in a society where all can develop their potential, then we must allow people to learn by recovering from their mistakes.  When we do so, we not only allow ourselves some slack when needed, but we also imitate our merciful Father.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday of the First Week in Lent

(Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26)

At the beginning of “Paradise Lost” John Milton claims his intent is to “justify the ways of God to men.”  He is needed after reading the passage from Ezekiel which says that God might condemn a person after making just one false move.  As school children will ask, would a man really be damned to hell after failing to attend mass one Sunday morning and then being hit by a dump truck on the way to the store to buy ice cream?

O.k., the example is frivolous, but the question remains crucial.  How can it be said that a person might not be judged on the totality of her actions but for one malicious deed?  As always, the best way to address the issue is to defer to Jesus.  Today’s gospel is taken from his Sermon on the Mount where he presents his New Law or righteousness.  He says that people will not be judged so much on their outer actions as on their heart’s intentions.  A man may bow before another not out of esteem but in deception.  His action will be judged as wanting.  A woman may say nice things to another one day and gossip about the person the next.  Her words will convict her of duplicity.

In any case we need to be slow about judging others.  The human heart is often so twisted by life’s contingencies that it does not know what it desires. And then there is God’s overwhelming mercy!  We pray that everyone will be saved as we try to purify our own intentions.  In these ways we trust that God will not condemn us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

(Esther C12:14-16; 23-25; Matthew 7:7-12)

Why do people pray? The age-old question is probably made more by unbelievers than by believers. Still, the faithful need to ask themselves if they think that they might change God’s will by their efforts.  Is He not changeless?  If so, then why bother to seek His helpim??

Prayer is the most urgent of Christian actions.  Christians cannot help but pray because it is the Holy Spirit that is prompting them to do so.  Their prayers do not change God, but through their prayers God is changing them.  First, prayer enables them to see that God has at his disposition myriad ways of improving an undesirable situation beyond what they have considered.  Then in prayer they discover how God may want them to address the challenge at hand.  Finally and most importantly, prayer aligns them with the only true order of things: not theirs but God’s is to be done.  It has been wisely said that God’s posture toward those who pray does not change with their prayer; it always remains one of pure love.

In today’s gospel Jesus urges his disciples to pray for what they need.  The first reading pictures the Jewish Queen Esther doing that as she prepares to meet her husband, the king of Persia.  Her prayers will lead to the salvation of her people as God unmasks the maliciousness of their persecutor.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32)

There was a time within the memory of many living today when most Catholics would eat meat only once a day and fast between meals during the Lent.  Of course, they never ate meat on Fridays at that time.  The communal Lenten penance provided a sense of solidarity among the people much like what is indicated in today’s first reading.

Although there is no historical record of an Israeli prophet converting Nineveh or even of a city so large that it would take three days to transverse, the narrative from the Book of the Prophet Jonah provides readers with a profound religious truth.  It tells them that God expects them to acknowledge not only that they have sinned individually but also that their faults have caused others to sin.  As a result there is need that they help one another overcome sinful ways.  They should fast and pray together so that God might forgive their sins and bring the nation true peace.

We fast during Lent for various reasons.  We want to show remorse for our sins by denying ourselves some pleasures.  We also want to show our love for the Lord who has provided us with the goods of creation.  We also want to help one another live a life of moderation – very much in need today.  Doing so we demonstrate that it is not created things but the Creator who gives our lives permanence and peace.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

(Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15)

A pastor had an idea to raise funds for his parish life center.  He would give any parishioner ten dollars for a project so that they could give it back with another ten dollars.  Putting responsible people’s entrepreneurial minds to work can produce remarkable results.  Needless to say, the parish life center was built.  In today’s first reading we hear how God puts His word to work with wonderful results.

The reading comes from the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, often called Deutero-Isaiah.  This book tells of the people Israel suffering in Babylon and their liberation through Cyrus of Persia.  However, the one God is the hero of the work.  He directs all action through His efficacious word.  Today’s passage describes that word as rain from heaven producing abundant fruit.

We should never doubt God’s word and should pray daily to see it change our lives.  We will find that God acts in our best interests.  Whether or not we receive exactly what we seek, God will share with us His Holy Spirit.  This gift more than compensates for anything that we find wanting.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Lent

(Leviticus 19:1-2.11-18; Matthew 25:31-46)

Mother Teresa often called the poor “Jesus in disguise.”  Her reason for doing so can be found in today’s gospel.  Jesus himself identifies with the hungry, the sick, and the imprisoned.  The poor certainly suffer a disproportionate incidence of these conditions.

But often in economically advanced societies the poor are well overweight.  They eat too much of the wrong foods, and they do not get enough exercise.  What can be done for them?  Certainly people can model healthy eating and exercise habits and also encourage the poor to follow them.  Advertising paid with public funds might also remind people of a healthy lifestyle.  Public policy that provide opportunities for the poor to improve their living habits may be crafted as well.

Above all, we must identify with the poor.  We not only have to see them as like Jesus but as our brothers and sisters.  Then with both our physical and creative resources engaged, we will work out ways that will remove them from jeopardy.  In these ways we will find ourselves called into the Father’s kingdom.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday after Ash Wednesday

(Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15)

Remember when our mothers told us to eat our food because there were children in China going hungry?  Comedians make fun of the logic, but there is subtle connection between the two.  It parallels the reasoning behind the lesson about fasting in the first reading today.

Isaiah chastises the people for fasting while ignoring the needy.  Fasting – experiencing voluntary hunger --should make us conscious of those without food to eat so that we might help them.  Our mothers admonished us to finish our dinner with a similar end in mind.  They wanted us to be grateful for the food we have so that we might help those with little.

Food is a good although we sometimes distort its value by eating too much.  In any case food is not the greatest good.  God is.  To recognize God as such we fast during Lent.  Because God commands us to do so, it would a travesty for us to fast from food and not assist the hungry.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)

It is always interesting to see how people deny reality.  What is both conventional wisdom and the result of scientific experimentation can be not only ignored but refuted.  One such reality is the added value of lifestyle to a long, healthy life.  Scientific studies indicate that on the average diet and exercise contribute between sixty and seventy percent to longevity.  Yet some people insist that living ninety years or more is solely the product of “good genes.”  This denial is not worse than that regarding Moses’ prescription for a long life in today’s reading from Deuteronomy.

The Book of Deuteronomy was finally redacted after the Babylonian exile.  It was used to explain the ignominy of that bitter experience.  It supposedly foretells how the people could have chosen life in the land that God had given by obeying His commands.  Instead they followed crooked ways ignoring the poor and worshipping false gods.  Yet Deuteronomy does not end in hopelessness.  One of the book’s final chapters tells of the Lord’s eternal willingness to resurrect His fallen people.

We too have fallen – at least a little, at least sometimes.  We act in ways that are not like God’s as we know Him in Jesus Christ.  We cling to resentments and try to justify our mistakes.  We eat and drink to excess and curse at other drivers.  We need to take to heart the offer of life that God continually extends to us.  If we want to live, we have to make God’s ways ours.  For this reason we have the season of Lent.