Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Psalm 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem – (315-386 A.D.) Bishop of Jerusalem falsely accused in the Arian controversy of the Church; he spent half of his episcopate lifetime defending himself. In 1822 he was declared a Doctor of the Church for his many Lenten writings and those in preparation for Baptism.
Lent has all of the components including support and inspiration to help us build our Spiritual lives to greatness. The reading beginning with Isaiah whose writings are so colorful and inspiring, reminded me of what can be accomplished when someone is inspired. Influenced by the high energy of March Madness (college basketball’s end of season championship play) I saw how hard work and preparation led the teams to reach beyond their dreams, to greatness. Many of us have become inspired too, just by watching what can be accomplished with that kind of dedication.
God is intent on inspiring us today, to begin the hard work necessary to overcome the obstacles in our lives that trip us up and keep us from achieving Spiritual greatness. His “coaching” begins with the clear and purposeful writings in Isaiah. From the first verses, the words Sodom and Gomorrah jumped out, a suitable way to capture our attention. In the second paragraph, the words ‘Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.’ (Is 1:16 & 17) These words too were sharp and contained clear directions. And then with even more passion, our coach says ‘Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.’ (Is 1:18) So, Isaiah gets our attention, as the familiar becomes new; and we hear the Lord call us to change.
Written between the lines of today’s verses in Isaiah, the Lord is telling us to provide for and care for each other. He no longer wants our offerings of animal sacrifices, but rather He is concerned that we become clean ourselves. At the end of verse 16 “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” The 40 days of Lent can provide the discipline we need to see the world through Christ’s eyes. By denying ourselves of dessert or other worldly pleasures; or by volunteering to work in a soup kitchen that serves the homeless, we our taking our wants and needs out of the equation. Lent could be the beginning of an important life lesson, but many times when Lent ended, so did my lesson. God is asking us to stay focused for the long haul remove the blood from our own hands and then be able to help each other inspired and inspiring others.
God knows we like role models it’s just that given our human nature we’ll always need help figuring out whom to emulate. So speaking of the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus says “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example, for they preach but they do not practice. All their works are performed to be seen.” (Mt 23:3&5) Looking at my own motivations, I know I struggle with this as well.
What is the important work to be done? To what goal should
I strive? Do some of my goals move me in the right direction, or
do they just distract me from achieving the greatness I was made to achieve?
Let us keep our eyes on Jesus. His way was and is perfect.
He withstood every test, and none of us will ever be able to accomplish
that, although He calls us to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.
It will be a constant challenge to figure out our motivations, removing
self from the equation. In the spirit of March Madness, let us be
inspired to begin the work of Lent, and may our inspiration be sustained
to continue on after Easter. What a different world this could be,
if we could all be a little more conscious of each other’s needs rather
than just our own.
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