February 24, 2016
by Tom Purcell
Creighton University's Accounting Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 232

Jeremiah 18:18-20
Psalm 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
Matthew 20:17-28

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Daily Lent Prayer

There are at least two very fruitful prayer settings for us to consider today. 

First, Jeremiah’s plight is to be caught up in betrayal by his adversaries.  He doesn’t understand why they would seek to harm him when he had been outspoken in pleading their case before the Lord.  Jesus moves into the final chapter of His earthly life in the story from Matthew, and reminds the disciples that betrayal, death and, mystifyingly a resurrection, will be happening soon to Him and by extension to the disciples.  But even in this extreme moment, the human power of self-interest, in the form of jealousy, arises.  

I suspect most of us have felt some betrayal in our lives, a time when a friend or acquaintance or someone upon whom we relied let us down or even tried to undercut us.  It isn’t a pleasant feeling.  And it especially hurts when those who are betraying us are among the group, or are the actual persons, we have been trying to help.  And so I invite us to pray over those feelings of loss of confidence in, and resentment toward the betrayer.  How did I feel when I realized this person I trusted had abused that trust and schemed to harm me?  How did I act when I encountered this person?  When I look back am I pleased with how I acted?  What do I wish I had done differently?  Did I try to understand why this person had betrayed me?  Was I able to “turn the other cheek” by looking beyond the betrayal and seeing the spirit of God in this person who had so harmed me?

Second, Jesus confronts the reality of jealousy among His followers.  Who will be first among equals, they want to know.  And if not me, why the other guy?  Jesus responds not by condemning jealousy, but by teaching them again about what is required to follow Him.  He does not tell them what they have done wrong, but instead reminds them of what they must do.  He continues to emphasize that we must see ourselves in the shoes, the body, the very existence of the other.  And so I invite us to pray over the times we have felt jealous.  What about those situations made us want to be like another person?  Was it the social prestige, or the privileges, or the recognition that would accompany being in their shoes that we sought?  Were we focusing on what it would be like for us personally to be exalted over our peers and to be moved into a higher rung on the ladder?  When we reflect back on the times we have been jealous of someone in a better social status, have we ever sought to be in the shoes of the other, the homeless, the alcoholic, the abused woman, the migrant, the displaced, or the refugee – the very people Jesus sought out and the ones who most needed His love?  Would it be better for us to be jealous of the freedom that many of the other feel from possessions and status and desires instead of feeling inadequate because we do not have a status or a possession that seems attractive to us?  Would being jealous of THEM instead of one of our peers help us be closer to the Lord?

The psalm is a great coda – it reminds us that our freedom from jealousies and betrayals lies in the Lord – that the power, the prophecy, and the path that comes from Jesus will lead us to a place of peace and serenity.

And so my prayer today is to turn my frustrations with betrayals to greater charity to the betrayer, and my feelings of jealousy into desire for more solidarity with those who experience the freedom to realize more fully the love of God.

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