Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42)

According to a leading member of the pro-life movement, Kristin Turner was a feminist, pro-choice college student.  One day she was looking at pro-life videos for ammunition to defend the abortion alternative.  Watching them, however, made her realize the right to life of unborn babies. Now, it is reported, she has formed a pro-life group at her college.  We see a similar conversion taking place in today’s first reading and a lack of conversion in the gospel.

The king is furious with the three young Israelites for not following his command to worship himself.  Because they remain loyal to the God of Israel, the king has them put into a red-hot furnace.  But the heat does not scorch the three; rather, they thrive in the midst of the flames.  The king soon recognizes that the God of Israel is the only true God.  In the gospel Jesus tries to convince the Jews of God’s such great love for the world that he has sent it His Son.  But the Jews cannot see Jesus as a gift from God who frees them from the onus of the law.  They prefer to look at him as a menace to their concern that the people stay in line.

Many today also reject Jesus as Lord.  They may admire some of his teachings but are selective about what they believe.  They do not recognize that his selfless love will free them from constantly claiming rights and privileges.  When we accept his love for us and practice it among others, we become much like Jesus. We become daughters and sons of the Father.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30)

It is said that the crucifixion is the most depicted image in fine art.  There are not only countless paintings and statutes but also numerous styles.  Some crucifixions show Jesus with blood pouring from his hands, feet, and side.  In others he wears a royal crown or priestly vestments indicating his different roles in Christian theology.  The evangelists themselves depict the crucifixion in different ways. Mark and Matthew see Jesus dying misunderstood by all the people and apparently abandoned by God.  In Luke Jesus dies a friend to sinners and assured of the Father’s presence.  John has Jesus high on the cross, a reigning king no one can touch. 

In today’s gospel from John Jesus describes how the people will see him on the cross.  He says that they will know him as he truly is – the great I AM.  They will recognize him as the Son of God by his innocence and also his willingness to die as a sacrificial offering for sin.  He does not flinch in front of the imposing Pilate.  Nor does he beg out of the ordeal when torturers take up whips and thorns.  He faces all the punishment as self-possessed as a king, as intent as a priest, and as certain as a prophet.

The first reading helps us understand the crucifixion.  It indicates how looking at Christ crucified can be salvific.  Of course, it is not just seeing the dying Christ that saves.  Rather we have to allow his combination of innocence and selflessness to transform our lives to be like his.  The grace of his death and resurrection can turn us into loving daughters and sons of the Father.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

The terms reformatory and penitentiary were popular in previous eras.  They indicated a place where juvenile delinquent and criminals might learn how to behave well.  Perhaps because of the difficulty of making this transformation, today we speak of prisons.  In prisons criminals are often more detained than rehabilitated.  Still the main purpose of justice is to justify, that is to reform and not to punish.

In the readings today Jesus proves to be a wiser administrator of justice than Daniel.  The Old Testament sage is able to ferret out the truth in a case of malicious calumny.  Daniel reveals how two elders have lied about Susanna’s alleged adultery to condemn her to death.  Jesus not only saves the woman caught in adultery from stoning but also rehabilitates her.  His verdict is as firm as it is clement.  She must “’not sin any more.’”

We have entered the last stages of Lent.  Recalling Jesus’ justification of the adulteress helps us to anticipate his justification of the world on Good Friday.  Jesus is history’s only really innocent human being.  He died on the cross so that we might not be condemned for our sins.  More than that, his death and resurrection have afforded us the Holy Spirit.  With its guidance we too can live truly virtuous lives.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 28, 2020

(Jeremiah 11:18-20; John 7:40-53)

If we listen for the Jewish trial of Jesus in the reading of the Passion on Good Friday, we will be disappointed.  Unlike Matthew and Mark, John does not show the Sanhedrin meeting to review the evidence, listen to witnesses, and render a verdict.  But careful observers will note how John runs a trial throughout the first part of the gospel.  Jesus is continually being questioned, and people are brought to give testimony about him.  Today’s gospel highlights this ongoing inquiry of the Jews about Jesus’ activities.

First, the Jews try to establish Jesus’ identity.  Is he the long awaited prophet promised by Moses, the Davidic Messiah who will lead the people to freedom, or a charlatan?  They do not achieve unanimity, but nonpartisan guards testify that no one has ever spoken like him.  The Pharisees act like prosecuting attorneys in the trial.  Hostile to Jesus, they try to discredit Nicodemus and everyone else who speaks in Jesus’ defense.

We readers of John’s gospel may want to involve ourselves in the proceedings.  Although we may have gone to church all our lives, many of us wonder about Jesus.  Like the Jews, we ask, “Is he really God?”  We want to know if following him will bring us through death to eternal happiness.  Or is Jesus, however talented, just a man incapable of delivering all he claims?  From anyone else, we would dismiss such talk as “pie in the sky.”  However, we must admit something different about him.  His wisdom, his preaching, his healings, his demonstrated love for others -- all justify a positive verdict.  And then there is the testimony of the saints through the ages. Yes, he is Lord and we would betray our deepest intuition not to follow him to the end.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

Even today a few Catholic churches cover statues and images during Lent.  The practice is connected with today’s gospel which used to be read on the Sunday before Palm Sunday.  Because the passage says that the Jerusalemites could not arrest Jesus, it is assumed that he is nowhere to be seen.  Thus, he and the saints who reflect his glory are covered as to be likewise not seen.

The gospel passage perhaps more importantly relates the ignorance of the people of whom Jesus is.  They see him as a false prophet, one who claims to speak on God’s behalf but does not.  He is, of course, a true prophet and more – God’s own Son.  At the crucifixion in Luke’s gospel Jesus pleads to his Father on behalf of his executioners.  He begs that they be forgiven since they do not know what they are doing.  The Gospel of John conveys the same realization here albeit without the prayer for forgiveness.

However much the people’s ignorance of Jesus is in the gospel, we should not be found guilty of the same fault.  Excellent understandings like Pope Benedict’s three-volume study Jesus of Nazareth are available.  The more we know of him, the closer we will want to follow him.  And the more we do that, the happier will be our reception into eternal life.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

In John’s gospel after Jesus is arrested, he is not taken before the Sanhedrin for a trial.  There is a brief questioning by a former high priest, but no witnesses are called.  There is no “Jewish trial” in John’s gospel.  Instead there are a series of interrogations of Jesus and testimonies for and against him throughout the work.  In today’s gospel passage Jesus presents evidence in his defense. 

Jesus first cites John the Baptist.  He says that John testified to the truth that is incarnate in Jesus.  Then Jesus brings up the mighty works of healing that he has done.  He also says the Father has given testimony on his behalf.  John does not have the Father speaking of Jesus from a cloud.  He may have in mind God’s mercy demonstrated in today’s first reading.  Jesus everywhere exhibits God’s mercy that refuses to destroy a rebellious people.  Finally, Scripture testifies to Jesus by prophesying of the coming Messiah.

The Jews will not accept Jesus’ witnesses.  But we do.  No one has ever spoken or lived quite like Jesus.  He not only lived an implicitly pure life, but he also died testifying to the Father’s love for the world.  As his disciples will say later in the gospel, we have nowhere to turn but to Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

(Isaiah 7:10-14.8:10; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38)

A movie of a couple years back features a young man sailing his boat around the world.  He is friendly and, of course, resourceful.  At one point he explains why he is not pursuing a career like most people his age.  He says that he was studying at the British naval academy with his father’s blessing.  Then, he adds, he decided he wanted to live his own life, not his father’s.  The remark distances this young man not only from his father but also from the two prominent figures of today’s Scripture readings.

The Letter to the Hebrews explains how animal sacrifices could not take away sins.  They pretend to be a self-donation of the person making an offering.  But they always turn out more like a tit-for-tat deal bartering with God for cancellation of a debt.  Christ, however, did make a worthy sacrifice when he gave himself up to death according to his Father’s will.  Without sin himself, his sacrifice on the cross purged the sins of all his followers.  Mary in the gospel passage likewise sacrifices herself to do the will of God.  Being chosen to give birth virginally may sound like an exciting opportunity.   But to a devout Jewish maiden of the first century it must have seemed very strange.  Yet Mary accedes to God’s request.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make choices for ourselves if those choices conform to God’s will for us.  Sooner or later, however, we can count on God calling us to do something we would rather not do.  Then as followers of Jesus, we must imitate his obedience to the Father’s will.  It may be something as simple as passing by an invitation to a baseball game to assist a sick cousin.  In any case we are to do what God wills, not what we will.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

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

Anyone can have a bath at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.  There is no cost.  Assistants will help the aged and sick as well as the healthy prepare themselves.  Privacy is paramount.  Photos, even while waiting in line outside the baths, are prohibited.  The experience will heal the soul if not the body.   Pilgrims witness the faith of the people and the service of volunteer assistants.  God feels as close to them as ever.   Today’s gospel speaks of an even greater closeness to God.

The paralytic is waiting for someone to assist him enter the healing pool of Bethesda.  Jesus offers his services.  Since he is the source of “living water,” he does not carry him into the pool.  He only tells the paralytic to get up and walk, and the man miraculously does so.  Jesus’ miracle does not require faith on the part of its beneficiary.  Rather his sovereign authority works wonders as he wills.

We should take another look at Jesus. He is not only a healer and a teacher, but also the Lord who can work wonders for us.  We want to submit to his will.  It is not only that he requires it of us.  But also in doing his will we find our truest happiness. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

Yesterday rose vestments indicated that the tide of Lent has turned.  Today the readings more properly give an upbeat tone.  The first half of Lent necessarily stresses repentance and penance.  Sin roots itself deeply in people’s lives.  It takes serious effort to eradicate.  (Would that all our sinful tendencies be rooted out in less than four weeks!)  Now the people can sense Easter joy approaching like the scent of lilacs on trees.

In the first reading Third-Isaiah announces a new creation.  People will live long, robust lives.  Joy will characterize their activities.  God will accompany the people in their celebration.  In the gospel Jesus brings joy to a royal official by curing his son.  The passage follows Jesus visit to Samaria which itself comes after his encounter with Nicodemus.  A gradual revelation of the concept of life may be discerned in this succession.  Jesus had spoken to Nicodemus of a rebirth to new life.  Then he promised the Samaritan woman living water springing up to eternal life.  Now Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, restores health to a dying boy. 

We may see our lives growing similarly throughout this period of grace.  We heard of the promise of life as Lent began with Jesus overcoming the tempter’s wile.  We would likewise shun self-centeredness that delivers death in the long run.  Then we were given insights about our renewal in grace with the woman at the well.  Now, and more so this Sunday with the raising of Lazarus, we find ourselves glimpsing the dawn of Easter.  It is greater than any human existence.  It is the absolute fullness of life. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

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

Jesus’ first commandment sounds daunting.  We might ask whether we could love anyone else if we direct all our affection toward God.  Even more discouraging, it may further seem that only the strictest of contemplatives can fulfill this mandate.  The rest of us – priests in ministry as well as laity in the world – will have to be judged as falling short.

But these kinds of conclusions are based on the premise that love is a material quantity that gets used up over time.  To the contrary, love is a spiritual entity that is multiplied by use.  When we attempt to love God, we develop greater not lesser affection for God’s creation.  It is true that sometimes desire for created goods conflicts with God’s will and must be rejected.  But pursuing the desire would actually be loving the created good more than the Creator. 

In today’s reading from Hosea we hear God calling us back to him.  Like dogs on an escapade we sometimes go searching for fulfillment away from our true home.  In God, however, our desires are ordered so that we might enjoy everything that is truly good. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

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)

There is no doubt that precautions are necessary.  No one wants to contract the Corona-19 virus.  But how many secure measures are necessary? We will limit our social contact.  We will keep our hands sanitized and practice not touching our face.  We will take care when going into public places.  But should we not go to work?  Do we have to horde food?  Are we to cancel all our engagements as one commentator suggests?  What does faith teach us about Corona-19?

Of course, Scripture does not say anything about viruses.  It should not be read as a scientific document.  Yet it can help us face the crisis with courage.  In today’s gospel an angel tells Joseph not to be afraid.  He should take Mary, his espoused, into his home because the child she bears was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  That child will save many from their sins.  Joseph overcomes whatever fear and probably disappointment he has.  He takes Mary into his home to facilitate the salvation of the world.

We must show the same courage in face of the Corona-19 threat. By courage we do not mean the will to do something daring but the will to abandon having things our way.  We should cancel or postpone meetings that are not necessary. We should also definitely stay at home if we have the symptoms of the virus except, of course, to see a doctor.  We should also ask God’s mercy on those who are sick and especially for those who have already succumbed to the virus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

(Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9; Matthew 5:17-19)

Natural law is human participation in God’s eternal law.  Humans are able to reason from their observance of nature to what God commands or prohibits.  The essence of Israel’s law – the Ten Commandments – are said to constitute a privileged summary of the natural law. Some natural law tenets are that people should help and not kill one another. 

Jesus claims in today’s gospel that he intends to bring Israel’s law to completion or perfection.  He will go beyond natural law in a few cases so that his followers can live in perfect harmony.  He modifies the law against adultery to include looking lustfully at a woman.  He also thickens the natural law precept of love to include one’s enemies. 

In recent years many societies have eschewed natural law.  They have allowed abortion and approved cohabitation among other deviations from right reason.  The Church cannot help but lament these practices as leading toward the dissolution of society itself.  We believe that we will thrive only by following the sagacity of Jesus call to perfection.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

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

Biographers of St. Patrick are not sure about the events of his life.  They say that accounts are so embedded in myth that it is difficult to speak with certainty about them.  However, there seems to be some consensus that he was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Ireland.  When he escaped, he evidently did not harbor resentment against his land of captivity.  Rather he returned there as a missionary bishop to convert its people to Christ.   To the extent that this is true, it illustrates today’s gospel.

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness, especially in this gospel according to Matthew.  He mentions it in the prayer he taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.  Then he reiterates the point to make sure the imperative of forgiveness is understood.  In today’s passage, toward the end of the gospel, Jesus again hones in on forgiveness.  His followers must be ready to forgive multiple times.  If they do not, they will not receive the forgiveness they require from the Father.

Forgiveness is especially difficult when we have been offended deeply.  We do not want to let the offence go without due recompense beyond an apology.  In cases of loss of life or limb, that is simply not possible.  By forgiving in this situation, we show our trust that God will turn the injustice into our glory.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

II Kings 5:1-15; Luke 4:24-30)

People think of prophets as either soothsayers or rabble-rousers.  That is, they understand a prophet as one who foretells the future or one who raises consternation with righteous criticism.  It is true that the prophets of Israel at times performed these services.  But prophets were also teachers of the word of God.  They especially excelled at applying the word to concrete situations.  Today’s readings feature two prophets of Israel.                  

Elisha is successor of the primordial prophet Elijah.  He is considered holy and, for that reason, able to heal.  He inspires the trust – albeit reluctantly – of the non-Israelite Naaman.  Naaman obeys the man of God and finally praises God outright.  Jesus refers to Elisha and Naaman in his dispute with his townspeople.  He argues that as God chose to cure a non-Israelite through Elisha, He will save non-Nazarenes through Jesus.  Jesus is driving home the point that no one can make a claim on God.  Humans are to love Him and obey Him.

To be sure, it is difficult to love and obey God.  Our generation feels the need to convince itself of God’s existence.  Prayer – communication with God -- is short-circuited by all the technological devices that jump to our command.  However, striving to know and love the Lord has inestimable value, greater by far than a sense of control.  Peace fills our hearts.  We appreciate everyone and, indeed, everything more.  Then there is the indescribable gift of eternal life.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

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

There is a story about resentment.  The wise man was talking to a fool who resented his brothers.  He told him that harboring resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.  In today’s first reading we meet group of men who harbor resentment against their brother.

Joseph is not only Jacob’s child in old age; he is also an innocent dreamer.  The Scripture doesn’t say this, but it is likely that Joseph never thinks badly of anyone.  If he meets a poor farmer, he imagines him to be a plantation owner and treats him with deference.  If he encounters a crabby housewife, he dreams her to be gracious queen and offers to kiss her hand.  Joseph’s brothers consider this kind of behavior worse than contemptuous.  They want to kill him for it.

We are better, of course, to be like Joseph than his brothers.  We should look for the best in others although without imagining something that is not there.  When we find a worthwhile trait, we can respect the people for it.  Resentment for them will not just make the whole situation worse.  It is likely to cause our death sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

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

It is not that the rich man mistreats Lazarus.  He doesn’t kick him or yell at him.  Nor can it be said that the rich man ignores Lazarus, at least deliberately.  He doesn’t use the back door to avoid seeing Lazarus or turn his head when he walked by the beggar.  The rich man just doesn’t see Lazarus sitting there in need.  He probably is too busy.  The Scripture does not say what he is doing.  It does say that he dresses luxuriously and eats sumptuously.  It may be supposed then that he is lost in thought about what he is to eat that evening or wear the next day.

Unfortunately, in modern society there are many ways to avoid encounters with the poor. Gated communities keep unwanted people away.  By driving on expressways one can bypass inner-city slums where poor people often live.  In this age of consumption people can also spend all of their disposable income on one gadget or apparel after another.  They do not have any money left to help those in need. 

Jesus warns us today that the fate of such people is doom.  He says that not even the hope of the resurrection will make them see their neighbors in need.  If we are to profit by his example, we must ask ourselves what we are doing for others.  If the others are only those who can help us in return, we must look again.  Jesus wants us to wake up to those in need.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

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

Gospel commentators say that out of deference to the apostles Matthew puts the request for high places on the lips of sons’ of Zebedee mother.  They note that in Mark the disciples themselves make the vain request and that Jesus’ reply is directed to them, not the woman.  But let’s not allow concern for “who said what” distract us from the radicalness of Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus warns his disciples that seeking high places will not profit them a bit in God’s kingdom.  In another section he denounces the scribes and Pharisees for loving such honors (23:6).  He wants his followers to serve one another in humility.  In fact, he says that their service must be like that of a slave who has no claim to rights at all.  In his way of thinking, it seems, there is no overtime pay or discretionary days off.

Jesus’ vision of a disciple may sound preposterous if not cruel to us.  But he proclaims the radicalness of the kingdom throughout the four gospels.  We should not fret about how we are to bear the heavy cost.  He promises a reward greater than any merit we might suppose for our faithful service.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

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

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus wages a war on hypocrisy.  He emphasizes it in the Sermon on the Mount.  There he warns his disciples not to fast, pray, or give alms for show.  In today’s passage he critiques the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach. 

Then Jesus tells his disciples that they are brothers and sisters to on another.  As such, he does not want anyone to assume greater respect or honor than anyone else.  He becomes specific in what this means.  They are not to call one another, “Rabbi,” “teacher,” “master,” or “father.”  These titles are used among the Pharisees to covet honor. 

We in the Church have not taken Jesus literally in this command.  Teachers inside the Church abound.  Priests are almost universally called “Father.”  The transgressions on the part of the people may be readily forgiven.  They have a long tradition and often give comfort to those who seek spiritual wisdom.  But clericalism – the pretension that priests are better and more deserving of honor than lay persons – is a tragic sin.  It is tragic because Orders is a sacrament of service, not of domination.  It is a sin because it subverts the unity Jesus intends among his disciples.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

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

The man gives God thanks every day.  When he was young, he was always in trouble.  He couldn’t stay out of fights.  He was convicted of assault and battery as well as using drugs.  After doing a couple of prison terms, he was facing a thirty-five year sentence.  Then he was shown mercy.  He credits God, but certainly a judge had something to do with his being given another chance.  In this case any risk the judge took proved imminently worthwhile.  The man has turned his life around.  He is married and raising a family.  He owns a prosperous small business.  He is also the youth minister of his parish.  In today’s gospel Jesus recommends that his disciples show mercy as the wise judge in this story.

When Jesus says that his disciples should not judge, he does not mean that they put on rose-colored glasses.  No, they are to distinguish right from wrong, but they are not to condemn others.  Quite the opposite, they should be ready to forgive with any good reason.   Jesus then promises that their mercy will be returned in good measure.

It is sometimes difficult to forgive because we see it as a betrayal of justice.  Jesus would agree that mercy without justice leads to problems.  But mercy tempers justice in that it allows those who have shown genuine remorse for their crimes to move on.  If everyone were to give strict repayment make up strictly for every offense tallied, many persons’ development would be stifled.  Worse yet, our society would become paralyzed. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Friday of the First Week of Lent

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

If we were to ask St. Thomas Aquinas which is more important to offer a gift at the altar or to reconcile with someone whom we have offended, he would probably make a distinction.  (He always makes distinctions)  He would say something like in order of priority, we should reconcile with the offended person first.  But, he would add, in order of importance, it is greater to give God His due.

Jesus would no doubt agree.  What may surprise some, however, is that he does not say that an offering to God makes up for the offense against another human being.  But Jesus knows that humans are images of God.  As such, all of them – young and old, black and white – deserve not just a cool respect but our sincere love.  For Jesus it would be hypocrisy to worship God while ignoring the offenses we have committed against a neighbor.

These seven weeks of Lent are set aside to reconcile ourselves with both God and neighbor.  We need to make a thorough examination of conscience and to confess our sins.  We also need to recognize how we have offended others and to seek their forgiveness.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

(Esther C:12.14-16.23-25; Matthew 7:7-12)

Skeptics use gospel passages like the one today to demonstrate the folly of prayer.  They say something like, “Lord, give me a million dollars.”  Because they never receive the fortune, they conclude that God does not listen to prayers.  Of course, they misunderstand the kind of prayer that Jesus has in mind.

Jesus’ premise is that we go to God as His children.  He wants us to develop a relationship with God that is as close as the one many enjoy with a natural parent.  One man recalls how his father was the finest person he ever met.  He said his father was not educated but intelligent and, better, truthful and caring.  Trusting that God is eminently like this, we will find Him responsive to our petitions. 

We develop a filial relationship with God by showing Him gratitude for all that we have.  We thank God even for our own handiwork because it can be ultimately traced to Him.  Then we ask God for what we need.  We will do so humbly because He has already blessed us abundantly.  And we will find our prayers answered as surely as the sun rises.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

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

The gospels record that Jesus performed many healings.  They also testify that he drove out many devils.  It may be asked then why do the people in today’s passage ask a sign of Jesus to prove his legitimacy.  Perhaps they want a sign “on demand.”  But that would be humans’ mandating the divine when the dynamic is meant to go the other way.  Nevertheless, Jesus offers them a sign of sorts.

Jesus tells the people that they will have the “sign of Jonah.”  In Luke’s gospel this does not mean being buried three days as Matthew’s.  The sign here is a preaching more compelling than one that moved millions – men and beasts alike -- to repentance.  Perhaps the people in Jesus’ day would say something like they do in ours.  For them Jesus’ preaching, which in this gospel includes the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, is only “interesting.”

We have many reasons to follow Jesus.  His miracles, his teaching, as well as his preaching all point to a divine origin.  But the main reason we believe in Jesus is his crucifixion on our behalf together with his resurrection.  By it we have received every kind of grace.  Cross and resurrection provide us a model to emulate, a goal to anticipate, and a support along the way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

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

Certainly the most confessed sin among men is viewing pornography.  Many cannot control themselves even though the sin involves a manual action.  Some say pornography is a victimless crime, but that is patently false.  It involves numerous people in the smut industry.  It also affects the relationship of a man with his wife or future wife.  Most of all it distorts the man’s brain which will seek ever more outrageous satisfaction.  The readings today suggest what might be done to overcome this vice.

Isaiah tells of the effectiveness of God’s word.  Dabar, Hebrew for word, created the universe.  It certainly can liberate those who feel bound up by a particular sin.  In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus shows his disciples how to ask directly on behalf of their needs.  Troubled by the sin of lust, men will ask to be delivered from the evil.  They will pray it often especially when handling their telephone or computer.

We would like an egalitarian society where all people live together in peace.  If that is ever to become even a near reality, we must tame our covetous impulses.  We will accomplish this only by beseeching God’s life-giving word in prayer.