Lenten Reflection – 27 February 2018 – Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent, Year B and the Memorial of St Gregory of Narek (950-1003) – Doctor of the Church
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20, Psalms 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23, Matthew 23:1-12
Isaiah 1:10 – Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
Psalm 50:8-9 – I do not reprove you for your sacrifices;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will accept no bull from your house,
nor he-goat from your folds.
Matthew 23:2-3 – “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice…
All their actions are done to be seen by others, for they broaden their CLERICAL COLLARS and lengthen their CHASUBLES.”
God often works by shocking us (otherwise we should drift into comfortable complacency). Today’s readings are very shocking indeed.
First of all you have Isaiah calling the religious leaders of his time and place “rulers of Sodom” and his compatriots, ‘peoples of Gomorrah” and as they digest this he bellows at them: “Wash! Make yourselves clean!” and reminds them – that is us of course, of how much they have got wrong and how much they have still to put right.
But there is hope, nevertheless, ‘come now, let us reason together’, says God disarmingly.
And the Psalm today offers another shock. Suddenly, it is the sacrificial system that is thrown into doubt. God is apparently bored by all these sacrifices – unless they are accompanied by internal reform, they are of not value. And this Lent, the same applies to all of us, of course!
Finally, the Gospel brings yet another shock, as Jesus lays into the Pharisees and scribes. Now, we must be beware of nodding wisely as we listen and saying ‘quite right Jesus, they had it coming to them’, for the scribes and the Pharisees are you and me, anyone who exercises any kind of Christian leadership and so ‘I have translated the word ‘phylactery’ as ‘clerical collar’ and ‘hem’ as ‘chasuble’. For all these criticisms can be laid against us all and this Lent we need to look closely at this fact! (Fr Nicholas King S.J. – Daily Meditations for Lent)
Our task, by contrast, is to ‘humble ourselves’ as Jesus did in the awfulness of the Cross and from that plight it is possible for God to rescue us.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of our failings in order to start that turn back toward God. Many of us are unaware that we are in the pig pen like the prodigal before he realised his state and sought his father’s house.
Where in my life could I be more humble?
Where do I seek recognition, honour or positions of power, perhaps to the detriment of my neighbour?
Has power gone to my head?
YOU HAVE NOT THE TIME!
“We can only find our happiness on earth in loving God and we can only love Him in prayer to Him. We see that Jesus Christ, to encourage us often to have recourse to Him through prayer, promises never to refuse us anything if we pray for it as we should. But there is no need to go looking for elaborate and roundabout ways of showing you that we should pray often, for you have only to open your catechism and you will see there that the duty of every good Christian is to pray morning and evening and often during the day — that is to say, always….
Which of us, my dear brethren, could, without tears of compassion, listen to those poor Christians who dare to say that they have not time to pray? You have not the time! Poor blind creatures, which is the more precious action: to strive to please God and to save your soul, or to go out to feed your animals in the stable or to call your children or your servants in order to send them out to till the earth or to tidy up the stable? Dear God! How blind man is! …. You have not the time! But tell me, ungrateful creatures, if God had called you to die that night, would you have exerted yourselves? If He had sent you three or four months of illness, would you have exerted yourselves? Go away, you miserable creatures; you deserve to have God abandon you in your blindness and leave you thus to perish. We find that it is too much to give Him a few minutes to thank Him for the graces which He is giving us at every instant! ….
You must get on with your work, you say.
That, my dear people, is where you are greatly mistaken. You have no other work to do except to please God and to save your souls. All the rest is not your work. If you do not do it, others will, but if you lose your soul, who will save it?”
St John Vianney (1786-1859)
And now, my heavy laden soul,
what will you do?
You call with your lips and voice to
God most high,
God, who cares only for deeds and
is not taken in by words.
You, my soul, with a heart always turned toward Egypt,
how can I describe you?
a Sodom, to be punished likewise with destruction,
or the prosecutor of Ninevah, who was struck dumb?
more cowardly and barbarous than the
queen of the south,
lower than Canaan,
more stubborn than Amalek,
incurable as the city of idols,
a relic left behind from the rebellion of Israel,
a reminder of the broken covenant of Judah,
more reproachable than Tyre,
more shunned than Zidon,
more immoral than Galilee,
more unpardonable than faithless Capernaum,
maligned like Korazin,
slandered like Bethsaida?
Or am I
immodest as Ephraim as he grayed,
or a dove, whose gentleness seems due to
feeblemindedness and not to inner calm,
or an evil serpent born of lion’s cubs,
or the serpent’s egg filled with decay,
or like the last blow against Jerusalem?
Or am I
in the words of our Lord
and the sayings of the prophets,
an abandoned tabernacle about to collapse,
the unlatched doors of the stronghold,
my speaking edifice stained again,
having given up my rightful inheritance,
my home built by God,
as Moses, David and Jeremiah prophesied?
My thinking body now consumed by disease,
afflicted with carping counsel, rehabilitated by the law,
anointed with the clay of mildness,
incapable of finding my own salvation,
torn away from the maker’s hand,
expelled as just punishment
by order of the Almighty, to an unholy place,
rejected, exiled, greatly shunned, nothing spared,
having buried my gift in the ground,
like the one chastised in the Gospel by
losing his inheritance.
But you, God,
Lord of souls and all flesh,
in the words of one divinely graced,
You are long-suffering and abounding in mercy.
In the voice of blessed Jonah,
grant that I finish to Your delight
this book of prayers, now begun.
And having sown these words with tears
and set forth on this journey toward the dwellings You have prepared,
may I return joyfully in the time of harvest
with the bounty of atonement,
with sheaves of goodness and the fruits of delight.
St Gregory of Narek (950-1003) – Doctor of the Church