Lent is a season of many emotions. From Ash Wednesday to the sacred Triduum the Hebrew scripture speaks to us of the great stories of that tradition, echoes the powerful condemnations of the prophets and records promises of justice and of salvation. The New Testament follows the life of Jesus—his travels, parables, healings and directives—unto His passion and death. All of this is high drama; all divinely ordained; all humanly instructive; all emotionally draining!
Lent is an invitation to more fully incorporate oneself with God. This may involve reconciliation, prayer, fasting, or practicing acts of charity. But whatever action is involved it must be a personal engagement with the Lord. It involves hearing God’s call to “Render your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.” It is a personal, intimate, courageous response to a personal, intimate, call. Lent is a season of emotions. It is a time to bravely and trustfully look God in the eye and see the love and trust God conveys in return.
In today’s scripture Joseph trusted his brothers. The landowner trusted the hired hands. The landowner trusted his son. God trusted Israel. God trusts you and me. But this trust lives in tension; trust lives in tension with betrayal. Joseph is abducted; the landowner losses his property (momentarily) and his son. Yahweh abandons his unfaithful people. And only you know your trust level with God. Betrayals all! In a word, betrayal flows through today’s readings and the season’s scripture passages.
Betrayal is a form of deception or dismissal of prior presumptions; it is the breaking of a trust and confidence. As such it creates moral and psychological conflict within a relationship of individuals. Joseph must have felt great distress, fear and confusion when he realized his own brothers had betrayed him. (We know, of course, that years later he returns their betrayal with magnanimous forgiveness and generosity.) The landowner was greatly distressed, his sense of justice was outraged, and ultimately, upon the murder of his son, he took revenge and destroyed the culprits. And we know the up-and-down history of betrayal and reconciliation between God and His chosen people in the Old Testament. So that leaves you and me and God.
As we journey through this season of grace, we should find time to prayerfully reflect on our trust relationship with God, in the persons of Jesus and the spirit. Have we betrayed this trust relationship? By word or deed have we eroded or even lost God’s trust in us? Have we given God reason to turn away from us? Hard questions, but Lenten questions.
If, indeed, we betrayed God, it is best to come clean; accept responsibility for personal failure and apologize and restore harmony in this relationship with our creator-redeemer God. “Render your heart, not your garment and return to your Lord.” Return to God with all of your heart and again experience God’s unconditional and affirming love. As Psalm 51 notes: “A clean heart create for me, O God…and give me back the joy of your salvation.” When we rebuild our trust relationship with God, we receive that joy of our salvation. God readily accepts apologies (I know from experience!). God is not stingy when bestowing grace.
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