Tyre and Sidon did not really have a good reputation. In the book of the prophet Joel, they not only rejected the religion of Joel, but placed the silver and gold from the temple into their own temple. And when mentioned by Jesus, the big problem is the lack of repentance. There is no acknowledgement of sin. There is no desire to change ways. And for this failure, Jesus chastises them.
What are you known for? Virtue? Vice? Whatever we do results in a reputation. Our reputation can be accurate, but also not. We can be known for good or evil. We can be trustworthy, or untrustworthy. But once we have a reputation, it can be hard to shake.
Such can be the way we think of Saint Thomas. In the gospel, he seems to doubt. But his life is one of belief. Belief until death. Rather than a person of doubt, Thomas is like all who respond to God’s grace. Grace changes us. We are never stuck in our sin because God’s love is greater than all.
O gracious Lord Jesus Christ, though I, who am a sinner, in no ways presume on any merits of my own, and put all my trust in Thy goodness and mercy, yet do I fear and tremble in drawing near to the Table on which is spread Thy banquet of all delights.
It has been said that life is a journey. It is used as an analogy because we often know little of what lies ahead. We can be surprised by wonderful happy moments or sudden tragic sadness. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, life is ordinary. Just like any trip.
The first reading focuses on seeing and recognizing the presence of God. and because of our baptism, we can see the world in a way, because of God’s grace, where we never journey alone, since we are led by God. Through good and bad, thick and thin, happiness and sadness, and even the ordinary, God is always there.
Yesterday we focused on the love that God has for us. But why is it that we do not always feel loved? Sin. Today we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. He became quite “popular” by what he said in the desert. People were attracted to his message, and they came out in droves to hear it. Why? It was a challenging message. It demanded that to be whole, complete, and entire in our relationship with God, that we needed to change. To repent. To stop sinning. Why is it then, that this appealed to so many?
Isn’t it because people know, deep within themselves, that they need to change, to repent? Isn’t there something that we know deep within us about our relationship with God? We do not always admit it. We do not always act on it. Sometimes we run from it. But, deep down we know it. We are not always at our best, often deliberately so. To make a heart ready for Jesus, it needs to be tilled like soil. And Saint John the Baptist shows us how. Repent and believe n the Good News.
There are moments in life where we find ourselves at a desperate place. At these times, it seems that there is simply nothing more we can do. They can be moments of such suffering that we are not even sure if we can bear it. At other times, it is the result of such hardships that it seems too much. It can be illness, tragedy, death, ruin, whatever. What is it that can make suffering something that does not destroy but rather gives life? Is there such a thing as holy suffering?
Sin. God hates sin. Do we? We do not often think, at least I don’t, of God hating. But God does hate. God does sometimes detest. And what God hates, what God detests, is always the same. God hates sin. God detests sin. Fortunately for us, God does not, however, hate the sinner. God does not detest the sinner. And God offers to the sinner a way back. God hates sin, but loves repentence. God hates sin, but loves the sinner.
Today’s first reading is a wonderful reminder of this. To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth. As we are ready to begin Lent this week, how grateful we should be that God provides to us a way back. God wants us to return to him. In fact, this is what we are told to do. Return to him and give up sin, pray to the LORD and make your offenses few. Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin, hate intensely what he loathes, and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you, in prayer to the Most High God. This is the perfect time to do so.
This is the perfect time to do so, for today is the day of salvation. Lent is that time where we seek to be transformed, to change, to become a new creation in Christ. It is the time when we turn back to God. But giving up sin, the ultimate goal of Lent and the Christian life, is just the beginning, as we learn in today’s gospel. Keeping the commandments of God is one thing. Filling our souls with God and God’s priorities is quite another.
This is what the young man seeking more from Jesus learns. This man has kept the commandments of God. This man has really been faithful. But, that is not enough. He is not allowing God to fill his life, but rather his many possessions. As a result, spiritual growth is stunted. He is not able to give all to Christ. And neither am I. I too hang on to too many things that take me away from God. If you wish to be perfect, surrender to God and seek the way of holiness. Lent is the perfect time to start.
Wickedness. There are moments where you just want to give up. Things are too difficult, Life is too hard, you just can’t feel like you can go on. All in all, you just want to give up. To be sure, there are moments in our life where we just feel completely overwhelmed. And, this is somewhat normal from time to time. Life is hard. It’s difficult. And so it’s not unusual that we come to certain moments in our life, where we feel that left to our own energy and actions, we simply can’t be successful.
It could be easy, to put God in a similar place in today’s reading. He certainly seems at first glance, to be overwhelmed, fed up, ready to give up. Fortunately, God is not a human being. God is more. God is divine. God is eternal. God is constantly pouring out love to help humanity to understand what it means to follow him. And so in the midst of all of this wickedness, in the midst of all of the sin, when a mere mortal could be tempted to give up, God calls Noah.
It is no secret, nor great theological statement that sin angers God. And so it is not beyond the pale for the divine God to express anger at the sins of the people. But what is unique to the divine God is God’s constant ability to pour forth a new covenant. Today, the covenant will be extended to Noah. There’s a covenant given later to Abraham. There is a covenant that will be given to Moses. There’s a covenant that will be given through David. And when humanity does not accept fully and totally all of these covenants, God sent his only son. Human beings might be tempted to give up. But God never gives up on those who seek his new life, his forgiveness, his mercy and his love.
Halfhearted. Have you ever wondered why’s loss, or laziness, is a sin? Today’s reading from the book of Genesis about Cain and Abel might give us some reason for that we might understand it. At first glance, it seems that Cain and Abel have done what God is asked of them. They both have given him a gift. But looking deeper, we see that while Abel has made a great sacrifice giving God the best, Cain has just given God, whatever. It hasn’t been the best. It hasn’t been with his full heart and his full commitment. Cain has been halfhearted.
We can be tempted to do the same thing in our spiritual lives. We can look around the world in which we live, and say we haven’t really done things that are all that bad, really. But Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel, that it’s not simply looking for the easy way. Or, it’s not faith because we’ve seen concrete things so miraculous that any reasonable person would’ve accepted them. Rather, it is about faith.
And faith means, that we have to give our all to God. We have to work as much as we can, to turn everything over to God. We can’t simply be halfhearted. We have to be all in, we have to give God our best, we have to surrender our hearts so that we might live in his.
Readings for Today Audio Readings for Today How is it we avoid giving into despair when we see so much death and destruction around us. We fear terrorism, we see destruction in the Middle East, the tremendous death and martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East, those who go without basic necessities and other things […]