Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
“I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” Hosea 2:16b
This is taken from the first reading of the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It is a beautiful reminder that in this season of Lent God has an intimate message for each one of us.
Ash Wednesday reminded us that from the ashes of death we are called to rise to new life. Over and over again the readings of Lent speak of life and living – living in and through the life of Christ. Lenten readings remind us of God’s faithful covenant, pure justice and gentle mercy. They recall the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. And to love God above all. They assure that God’s steadfast love will lead to glorious joy. But also, they catch us up in the struggle of Abraham. How could it be that this loving God would ask a loving parent to sacrifice his “only one, whom you love?” We encounter St. Joseph as he listens to the messenger and takes Mary as his wife, rather than turn her over to the law. We witness the child Jesus, forgetful of his family, stay behind to be in the temple in the midst of the teachers. We are invited to participate in the celebration of the Last Supper when Jesus reminds us to do this in His memory – to heal the sick, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, to laugh and rejoice together, to pray and to listen, to break bread and eat in His name. We are encouraged to be present to Jesus as he struggles in prayer in the garden. As parent, spouse, priest, partner, family member, friend, we have been invited into the struggle of identity, commitment, and obedience. We read of a God who quenches our thirst and satisfies our hunger. We hear of the God who destroys and builds up. We hear of Jesus and his conversation with the Samaritan woman. The stories are endless and we are being invited to listen on a deeper more intimate level.
Who am I? Who is this Lord? Who is this man Jesus?
Finally we arrive at what appears to be the end, but is far from it. Jesus himself has struggled with his own identity and listening to the Father. As did Abraham and Joseph, Jesus struggled to listen to the Father. What Abraham loved most was his son, Isaac. What Joseph wanted most was to marry Mary and have a family. We can imagine that the young man Jesus wanted to continue his ministry – his healing, feeding, blessing, being with his family and friends. Each was called and blessed within the intimate relationship of God. In the struggle comes the blessing, a connection so intimate that one desires only what God desires. Our desires become the fulfillment of God’s desires.
The readings of today are all about life and love and intimacy. They are stark reminders of the peace that follows surrender, of freedom that comes with commitment, of love that follows faithfulness, and of abiding intimate love. They are about relationship and invitation. Jesus continues on his journey and we are continually invited to participate, to listen, to be open to the love that is ongoing. This is life and love in the fullest. These are wonderfully glorious readings full of life, love, and invitation.
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” Psalm 95
In these final hours of Lent, what is it that I have heard whispered in my heart these past few weeks? What tender, loving, caressing words meant only for me? What is my response?
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