Tuesday, Fourth Week of Lent

Scripture Readings for March 13, 2018

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9, John 5:1-16

Every time I read this passage from Ezekiel I love the image. The water that flows from the temple gets deeper and deeper, wider and wider and transforms the desert into a place of abundance even changing the salt water in the sea into fresh. It suggests to me the abundance that comes from God. It says abundance is what God wants for us. A place where there is new fresh fruit every month.

I believe the challenge for us to recognize the gift and appreciate the source. Clearly according to the Gospel not everyone is willing to rejoice over good things. A man who has been lame for 38 years is cured but Pharisees are angered because he picks up his mat on the Sabbath. It makes me wonder if there are good things that we miss because we’re too focused on something else. Are there things we decide are wrong, over react to, while good stuff escapes our notice? I know my personal issue is poor driving behavior. I can become obsessed with other drivers for not following the rules of the road. This includes when people stop the flow of traffic to let others in or let other cars turn into traffic before making their left turn off the road. They are probably trying to be nice. Sometimes I can let it go but other times I find myself upset that they are making up their own rules. So this is a very odd little example but I want to suggest that we all have things that we think of as right. We would say this is the way it’s supposed to be and that righteous attitude blocks our ability to actually experience the fullness of what is happening at the time. I suspect we all have some attitudes like that. The question is, if we can box ourselves in with petty little concerns like that, could we also be missing the big picture? When do our pre-conceptions interfere with what else might be happening. More simply, are we too quick to judge. Do we need to be more open?

I know of only one way to go after this kind of thing. Prayer. Praying to God about all of our life and its experiences. Talking to God and then listening to God’s response. We’re in Lent so this is a great time to put aside some additional time to spend in prayer. Maybe a kind of prayer we haven’t tried before. If you are a rosary person try praying with scripture. If you are great with scripture start examining your everyday experiences and talking to God about them. If you do lots of conversational prayer try the rosary as a meditation. In the end, it is about spending time with God so we can see the world in which we live as a person who has a deep trust in God’s involvement in our life and the lives of everyone around us.

If we’re going to get better at recognizing this world in all its aspects as something God gives us every day we have to spend more time deepening our relationship with God. Because on our own we’ll just reinforce our own prejudices. We’re like the lame man by the pool for 38 years, until Jesus comes along he can’t make it to the healing water in time. Jesus is the one who can heal us. Time spent in prayer is the flowing water that will wash us, heal us and quench our thirst.

Monday, Third Week of Lent

Scripture Readings for March 5, 2018

Kings 5: 1-15, Psalm 42: 2-3, 43: 3-4, Luke 4: 24-30

These two readings try to tell us that God’s loving care is extended to everyone, that God doesn’t play favorites. There is no “inside track” for some people to be in God’s favor while others are on the outside.

Since Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown the townspeople no doubt thought that they had a real “inside track.” Surely Jesus would do some spectacular miracles here just as they had heard he had done in other places. But that isn’t what Jesus talks about, instead he reminds them of the Hebrew scripture stories in which God had saved and healed outsiders, people who were not Jews, who were not “the chosen people.” They got so angry they tried to throw him down the hill.

This is not so different from our first reading. Naaman wants to be cured of his leprosy. This is obviously a big deal and Naaman wants Elisha to make it a big deal by a special display of invoking God. He is looking for something extraordinary just as the people of Nazareth were looking for something spectacular. They both want contact with God to be something special, to be “out of the ordinary.” Instead both these stories say God’s presence is available to everyone which means its available everywhere, in all the ordinary aspects of daily life. We don’t have to be special to get God’s attention.

What we have to ask ourselves is, in what ways are we acting like the Nazareans and Naaman? Do we expect God to be a spectacular, extraordinary God? Can we envision a God that is part and parcel of everyday life? Does God act in our everyday life or do we save God for special concerns, dire circumstances and times when there is nowhere else to turn? Is God our personal safety valve?

Instead, can God become, for us, our companion? Someone with whom we talk over how our day went. Someone to be consulted when we find ourselves confused or worried. Someone with whom we share good news and surprises. Someone we just spend time with, as the kids would say, hang-out together?

These readings suggest that God is a lot more available than we might think. Remember who pointed out to Naaman that he would have done anything extraordinary that the prophets asked? It was his servants who “reasoned with him” so that he would follow Elisha’s instructions. And who was telling the people of Nazareth that the day of God’s favor had dawned on them. The home town boy, the one they all knew from when he was a kid. These are the people we least expect to carry the wisdom we are seeking. It suggests that God is embedded in the ordinary things and people we live with every day.

In Church language we say God is immanent. It is also called the sacramental principle. God is here with us in the concreteness of our lives. It’s why we have Lenten practices that are concrete things to do. Pray more, give to the poor, sacrifice something you like. In other words, do something that changes, even in a little way, the way you live. If you make real changes, even little ones, you will be changed as well. If we don’t start with the little stuff, we’ll be waiting for some spectacular event, some fireworks, something big to make it obvious what we should do. We want the big event to make the change for us.

Today’s readings say, the spectacular isn’t going to happen. Not because God isn’t offering us the salvation, the care and the love we are looking for but because we are looking for God in the wrong places. Look at home, look at family, look at work, look at friends, that’s where you will find God and all God’s blessings.