Daily Reflection
March 1st, 2002
Bob Hart, S.J.
Jesuit Community
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-18
Psalm 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

An article from U.S. Catholic stared me in the face for a good week or so before I picked it up and read it.  It was entitled: Give up NOTHING for Lent!  What a great idea!  Iíve been trying that for a while now and it really works.  Itís a realistic, positive way of doing Lent.  Rather than not eating that hot fudge sundae, try just talking to that utterly boorish bore at work this week, or try  forgiving that gossipy lady who canít find anything good to say about anybody, especially yourself.  Or just try being good to yourself this week.  Remember the line from that song?  Take it EEEA--SY on yourself!

This practical technique may even facilitate your love for your neighbor and enhance your self-esteem at the same time.  For instance, strike the word Ďperfectioní from your vocabulary.  Acknowledge your own impatience, for instance.  Accept it in yourself and in others.  Itís amazing, really, how this approach makes us all a little less barbaric, a little more civilized.  Self-love can, and often does, lead to other-love and to God-love.  We begin to see the entire world, including our much-hated selves and our worst enemies quite suddenly Ďbathed in the sunshine of Godís loveí and matter for joyous contemplation.

In a roundabout way, then, what Iím suggesting for a Lenten program is a kind of Christian Asceticism that allows us to let the Christ life grow within us in such a way that we indeed put on the Lord Jesus.  And by dying to our selfish selves, or egos if you will, we let the fullness of Godís own life and love take root in our hearts and indeed permeate our inmost being, as it did with Jesus.  ďAnd of his fullness we have all received, filled with enduring love.Ē

Of all the jealousy stories in the Hebrew Bible, that of Josephís betrayal by his brothers out of jealousy is perhaps the most powerful of all.  There is the very human touch of the eldest, Ruben, who at least kept his next-to-youngest brother alive, protecting him from the hatred-unto-death desire of the more bloodthirsty among the other brothers.  But more to our point today, Joseph is able, down the road, to forgive his merciless brothers their merciless deed, thereby becoming a prototype of Jesus who forgave all his betrayers and, once raised from the dead, offers himself as friend and companion to all those who wish to follow him.  He Invites us to become disciples.  Over time we learn his lifestlyle, and even in our own day, follow him in that ever-recurring cycle of dying and rising, dying to our ever insistent selfish-selves (gimme, gimme, gimme, more, more, more) and over time let our egos be swallowed up into that larger Self, which is the very spirit of Jesus, of His father, the all-consuming Spirit of the universe, the Spirit of Divine Love.

What precisely shall we become in Him?  Who knows exactly?  Let us simply, gently, peacefully let that master Potter, Crafstman (however we like to conceive him) mold us into someone new, something Beautiful for God.  Jessica Powers prayed this way during a liturgical advent of her life.  Yet, it may work equally well for our Lent 2002.  Likening herself to a Stump of Jesse, she prays:

I am waiting for a green shoot
To come out of my stump some morning
In this unseasonal springtimeó
Decemberís leaf and blossom, winterís bird.
Joy waits with me and I can feel its seepage
Into my day and night.
My bones sing and I hear an unknown music
From that one place where, by old reverence stirred,
The vowels drain from a word. 
I think of the marvelous flower that is to come
And how the light will hover over it
Now and again though is the message blurred
By brief uncertainties:
I fear that by rude excess of watching
The green may be deterred
Or that I have miscalculated seasons
Or given far too personal a meaning
To glorious promises Isaiah heard.

Yet who am I to minimize the worth
Of what a stump is likely to bring forth?

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