March 2, 2021
by Mike Cherney
Creighton University's Physics Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 231

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Psalms 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
Matthew 23:1-12

Praying Lent

Doing Lent As A Family

How Come I Fear Lent?

Parish Resources For Lent

Today’s readings share a common theme, a call for renewal. The passages from the first chapter of Isaiah point out the hypocrisy of external acts of ritual practiced along side injustice. The Psalm continues the rebuke of those religious actions which are not partnered with ethical action. The Gospel acclamation is an explicit call for repentance and change. In the Gospel Jesus takes issue with publicizing the signs of one’s religious practice and one’s standing.

In the first reading, Isaiah calls out the leadership of Jerusalem as being deserving of punishment like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the intervening verses, which are not included in today’s reading, he outlines the shortcomings and hypocrisy of these individuals, and he calls on them to change.

In the Gospel, Jesus makes clear his opinion of those with lay leadership roles in Jerusalem’s Jewish community. He points out their double standard in the application of Mosaic Law. Jesus goes on to address attempts on the part of these leaders and of his own disciples who would use religiosity to gain praise and honor.

Lately I have been giving attention to my thoughts before falling asleep. I would like to claim that it is prayerful reflection, but it is not and seldom has been. As I move into “retirement”, I am noticing a change in these thoughts. During my busiest years, these thoughts often had a focus on the shortcomings of others. More recently these thoughts tend to look at my own shortcomings. A few weeks ago, I started to label this as an awareness of “my inner Pharisee.” During my busiest years, I tended to follow the rules or at the very least justify my actions in terms of the greater good. I became very judgmental of others, often with the harshest judgments for those whose actions mirrored my own inadequacies. I integrated the titles and awards that I received into my self image. While avoiding boastfulness, I would not have called myself the picture of humility. Although I still drew my motivation from what I considered important rather than the opinions of others, the need to exceed the performance of those others in terms of teaching, research and service as well as being regarded as “Doctor” or “Professor” were clearly parts of my ego. I had a disproportionately high opinion of myself. If I imagine myself in today’s Gospel, after Jesus’ comments I see myself walking away with my tail between my legs (as was likely also the case for some of His disciples).

My prayer today is a call for personal renewal.

Dear Lord,
It is so much easier to make pronouncements than to listen.
Grant me the understanding that true empathy brings.
Before attempting to judge others, allow me to recall my own failings.
Free me from the desire to serve my own ego.
Help me to keep in mind that my mission is more about others and less about me.

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