Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday in the 2nd Week of Lent
The God Who Moves

Readings: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23; Matthew 23:1-12

It’s a basic scientific principle that nature abhors a vacuum. Something similar applies in the spiritual life as well. So even as we try to rid our hearts and our lives of sin and darkness during this season of Lent, we may quite spontaneously experience pressures to fill it with something else. But we must be careful.

Jesus’ critique of the scribes and the Pharisees in today’s gospel may be seen as a warning about what not to fill our hearts with. Of course, Jesus is not just talking about the people of his time. In a certain sense there continue to be scribes and Pharisees among us today, even among those of us who consider ourselves Christian. Theirs is a religion of high ideals. High ideals are important of course, which is why Jesus says we should listen to what the scribes and Pharisees say. Unfortunately that’s as far as this religion goes. It only sets out the ideal. It only lays down the Law. But it leaves us to struggle on our own to do what needs to be done. For this is a religion of a stationary god, a god that remains at the level of ideals, a god that lays burdens but does nothing to move them. And it is possible even to read the first reading as yet another address from this stationary god, imposing upon us yet more obligations – to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow… – without lifting a finger to help us to fulfill them. But, if we’re honest, we'll have to admit that, left to our own devices, none of us really has the strength and courage to do what needs to be done, to get to where we need to go. Quite naturally, then, this religion often leads to a disturbing disconnect between belief and practice. It often leads to hypocrisy and scandal, to disillusionment and despair.

In contrast the God of Jesus Christ is a dynamic God, a God who moves. This is a God who leaves the realm of ideals and comes to meet us in the midst of our daily struggles with sin. This is a God who actually enters our chaos to save us. This is a God who even submits to humiliation. This God dies so that we might have life. Before this God we can truly be ourselves without any pretence, because this God accepts and loves us as we are, sinful and struggling. And in this experience of acceptance, this God actually lifts our burdens, actually helps us to traverse the unbridgeable gap between the scarlet red of our sinfulness and the white wool of God’s goodness. Isn’t this part of the significance of doing what the first reading tells us to do today? In helping the oppressed, in being just to the orphan, and in pleading for the widow, we begin to see how our God actually does the same for us: reaches out to free us from the oppression of sin and energizes us to reach out to help others.

Isn’t this also the process of Lent? By our spiritual practices we try to make space in our hearts and in our lives so that we can be filled more and more by the God who continues to move among us, who continues to lifts our burdens, and who takes us where we need to go.

Sisters and brothers, which God do you worship?

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