Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
Luke 16:19-31


Lent is often times given a bad rap as a time where we rag on humanity. We focus on our failings, our weaknesses, our sinfulness. Our liturgy takes on a more reserved character, we give things up, we talk about the crucifixion perhaps, a touch more – or a lot more – than usual. Critics of the Lenten observance often feel that it’s just a time to trash ourselves.

I’d like to propose that they are missing something. Well, multiple somethings, in fact.

Lent, when observed rightly, is a time of profound balance. Today, in our readings from Sacred Scripture, we are exposed to our fallenness, our need for divine guidance, and the effects of divine guidance in the lives of the faithful. 

Our reading from the prophet Jeremiah, and our Psalm, both emphasize the fact that human wisdom is, essentially, useless when it is divorced from a relationship with God. Jeremiah especially makes the point when he talks about relying on human strengths and turning their hearts away from God. As human beings, we have wisdom… some might call it street smarts. We have an understanding of how things work in the ‘real world’, but when we rely on such an understanding to formulate the way we approach our lives, we fall woefully short of what God wants of us. He does not want us to turn our hearts away from him… he wants to channel that worldly wisdom we have, to temper it with compassion, with righteousness, with eternal truth, and make of us effective ambassadors for his mercy and love in the world around us.

All the wisdom in the world, and even beyond the world, that is devoid of God’s presence is, ultimately, useless. When we have squandered the Spirit, when we have failed to live justly and humbly before God by tempering ourselves, then we are reduced, not simply to being counted among the wicked, but to being truly pitiful.

Such is the case of the rich man in the parable from our Gospel reading. 

Here was a man who clearly had it all, and yet all his earthly wisdom wasn’t enough to save him. Contextually, it’s made clear that this man had some awareness of the Law and the prophets… and yet he still finds himself judged, and tormented by the fact that his brothers (and presumably his extended family) haven’t amended their lives, or subjected their worldly wisdom to the wisdom and the justice of God.

When we consider the kind of life that God wants us to live, one in which we balance our own needs with the needs of others, the message present here becomes clear: our own nature has fallen, it fails us. It leads us to selfishness beyond what is necessary for the meeting of our basic needs. Thus, it is only in God that our human nature can be redeemed and risen from its debased state… and yet it can be redeemed and risen and restored! We can be more than our fallenness indicates. But we can’t do it on our own.

We need God. Thus we need self-discipline. We need reflection. We need renewal. We need it to redeem the world. And we need it to be redeemed ourselves.

May this Lenten season help us to recover a balanced walk, through the working of the Spirit, by the example of Christ, and in the overwhelming mercy of the Father.


For a deeper realization of our need for divine guidance,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For a more complete understanding of the Scriptures we hold dear, 
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For a continual conversion of heart, mind, and spirit, during Lent, and beyond,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For an indwelling of wisdom as we reach out to others with the Gospel message, 
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For a peace beyond our understanding as we contemplate our mortality, 
and as we cope with the suffering and death that is a part of our world today…
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer. 

For the needs and intentions we bring with us this day…
(silence for personal prayer)
…let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.