4LC19. Joshua 5:9a, 10-12. God has led the Israelite people across the Jordan. Then “the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I understand the ‘reproach’ that God has removed to be the shame, disgrace or dishonor of their subjection to a state of slavery to the Egyptians. God’s promise to give them a land overflowing with milk and honey is now in the process of being fulfilled. Their exodus from Egypt began with the celebration of the Passover and now ends outside Jericho with that same celebration. God’s loving mercy has powerfully delivered what was tragically lost to become something whole, holy and new: the Israelite People in possession of their own land.
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. Jesus answers the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes that “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” in this 15th chapter of Luke with three parables. The first two parables in Luke 15:4-10 of the ‘Lost Coin’ and the ‘Lost Sheep’ (which are not included in this Sunday’s reading) come to the same conclusion as the third parable of the ‘Prodigal or Lost Son’: God rejoices that those who were lost to sin are now found so that they can return to a proper relationship with God, holiness. The younger son on demanding that he now get his inheritance without having to wait until his father dies is in effect saying to his father ‘as far as I am concerned I now consider you dead’. He then leaves to squander his part of his family’s hard earned fortune on a period of dissipation with prostitutes. Penniless, with nothing to eat, he decides to return to his father, no longer as his son since he had considered his father as dead to get his inheritance, but as a hired hand. On his return, “while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.” Although the younger son just tries to get a job from his father, the father will have nothing of that since he loves his son so deeply. He welcomes his son with the finest robe, a ring, sandals and a spectacular feast, since his son “was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” It struck me that this will be the kind of celebration that there will be when a repentant sinner gets to heaven. In Jesus’ three parables in Luke 15 those who were lost but whom Jesus is now seeking to have returned to a state of holiness are analogous to the sinners that the Pharisees and the scribes are complaining about. In turn the older son is analogous to the Pharisees and the scribes who have always been obedient to the Law. Jesus is saying that they should be of the same mind as the father in the parable who rejoices at the return of the sinner to be reconciled to God, the Father. As God’s love is merciful, so should we be.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21. “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” The question is what does it mean to be “in Christ.” 1 John 4:16 says, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” Whoever remains in God’s love for us remains in God. 1 John 5:12 says, “Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.” I have God; God has me. Without God, life is as material life is, that ends in rot. In John 6:53b, Jesus says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” In John 6:56, Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” To be “in Christ,” means that Christ is our life; neither we nor anything or anyone is our life but Christ. Christ is everything for us; anything or anyone else is nothing to us, except to the degree that we relate to it or them out of our relationship to Christ. Carrying that a step further is to say, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” Since we have found such peace, joy and truth from our life in Christ, we ought to strive to bring everyone into that same relationship with Christ. As we are in Christ, everyone should also be in Christ. We are ambassadors from a spiritual world to a people who belong in heart and mind to an earthly world that does not relate to spiritual reality. We have the ministry of reconciliation, i.e. to reconcile or re-establish the proper relationship between God and ourselves and others around us, to bring, not only ourselves but, all to be in Christ.
3LC19. As Moses was tending a flock, he saw that a “bush, though on fire, was not consumed. Approaching the burning bush, God called out to Moses, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers.” Speaking to Moses, God said that he came to rescue the Israelites from their afflictions at the hands of the Egyptians “and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” First, Moses was to tell the Israelites: “I AM sent me to you.” God lives not where time progresses from the past through the present to the future but in the eternal now without any progression in time because he is always infinitely the same who can never gain or lose anything. He is absolutely perfect always. Secondly, he uses his infinite power to rescue his loved ones from danger. He is not a god who is aloft and distant but a God who is present and involved because he is love.
Luke 13:1-9. Jesus says, “If you do repent, you will all perish as they did!” Lent is the time to be deeply aware of the horrible peril of hell. We are the fig tree in the parable. Produce the fruit that is holiness or be cut down and cast into the fire of hell. The Lord will fertilize us with his grace but he demands results. He will not accept any excuses.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12. Paul tells the Corinthians that those who went through the desert exodus with Moses “all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink;” “yet God was not pleased with most of them.” Going through a past that had many spiritual connections, does not mean necessarily that we learned to give our hearts over to God. Evil befell them and “they were struck down in the desert,” “examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things as they did.” They are “as a warning to us.” “Whoever is thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” Both Apostles Peter and Judas fell. One repented; the other perished. Human nature of itself cannot save us. It will lead us naturally to be dependent on our own resources and be led by our human nature to do what we want. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother asked for the sons to take the places of greatest honor in Jesus’ kingdom. It is human nature to get ahead and leave the others behind. However Jesus said in Matthew 20: 27-28, “and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” It is human nature to desire to be in control. To follow Christ means to let God be in control. That is the cross that Jesus demands that we carry. One moment being filled with God’s grace and so desiring that we belong to God’s Will only; the next, being naturally who we are and so wanting to run things our self.
2LC19. Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18. God promised Abram, who was a simple, childless wanderer that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram took God on his word alone, and it was “credited to him as an act of righteousness.” To seal that covenant Abram brought animals for the sacrifice which God himself offered up in the darkness with “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch.” At that time God gave Abram and his descendants the Promised Land. God showed his glory in creating his Chosen People, a spectacular work for Abram and as an example for those who put their faith in him.
Luke 9:28-36. In Luke 9:22 that comes before this Sunday’s reading, Jesus predicts that he will “be killed and on the third day be raised.” In our Sunday’s reading Jesus, taking “Peter, John and James,” “went up the mountain to pray.” There Jesus was transfigured before them with his clothing becoming a “dazzling white.” Representing the Law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” I take exodus to mean his departure from human life in his offering himself up as a redemptive sacrifice for our sins. The apostles “saw his glory.” As Peter was speaking impetuously, “a cloud came and cast a shadow over them.” “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him.’ After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” In the transfiguration, Jesus was preparing the Apostles for his passion, death and resurrection. Without denying his humanity, Jesus wanted to assert his divinity. After Jesus’ resurrection, the Apostles needed to grasp more definitively which the fact that Jesus was not only human but also God. The Son of God was sent by the Father to become flesh to be the divine living word spoken humanly in Jesus. The Father commands us: “Listen to him.” He was love made flesh sent to his children in the flesh, calling upon us to be likewise love in the flesh as Jesus was.
Despite the fact that we are in the flesh, our death on the cross is to die to carnal desires, overwhelming by the grace of God our earthy, animal, bodily temptations. His glory calls us to be and live as children of the divine, to be in the world but not of the world.
In Luke 11:29-32 those without faith demand a sign so that they must believe because the sign makes them believe. If one believes because they have seen, that is not faith but first-hand knowledge. Abram and the three Apostles were believers who were given a sign of the glory of God because of their belief, not because of their unbelief.
Philippians 3:17-4:1. For those who choose to live just as beings of this world with no regard to a life after this world, as in biological taxonomy ‘homo sapiens’, the highest species of animal in this world and nothing more, then “Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is their ‘shame’. Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.” For those of us who live in this world as people who are just passing through here, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” He will take us up into his home, heaven, which will be our final, real and permanent home. He will change our earthly body to be like his own heavenly body. 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This Sunday’s epistle reading continues: “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body to bring all things into subjection to himself.” What a joy it is to belong to our glorious God and not to a world where eventually everything rots.
1LC19. Deuteronomy 26:4-10. The nation of God’s Chosen People started as a small household that lived in Egypt as oppressed aliens that the Lord made into a nation of numerous people. Moses said, “God ‘heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonder; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.’” For those who entrust themselves to God, who respect him as God over them, he uses his power for their benefit because they have given themselves over to belong to him. They are his.
Luke 4:1-13. After his baptism, Jesus “was led by the spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.” Jesus is both truly human and truly divine. In his divinity he is infinite and cannot experience a lack of anything, in other words, God cannot be hungry. However, in his humanity Jesus was definitely hungry. As the Israelites spent forty years in the desert in order to learn to be God’s People, so too Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days as a learning experience for Jesus in his humanity. Jesus in his humanity needed to learn just as any human needs to learn. He learned to be dependent on the Holy Spirit who filled him. It was the Spirit who gave him the strength and wisdom to defeat Satan. Without the Spirit Jesus in his humanity was no match for the devil, nor are we. The temptations that Jesus experienced were genuine and real. The devil knew well that he truly could tempt Jesus in his humanity but trying to tempt God would have been an absurdity. As in the first reading, God used his infinite power to defend those who belong to him. God would never allow Jesus to sin and will never allow us to sin as long as we live our lives in him.
Romans 10:8-13. “For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Only if we consistently put our salvation in the hands of the Savior will we be saved. He will never fail us but we must pray always that we will not fail him. We must always be a people who live only out of his provident goodness, never neglecting to go to him for our needs and as the source of our daily life.
8C19. Sirach 27:4-7. The Book of Sirach is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. This wisdom helps us to see as the Lord sees and not be blinded or misguided by the way the world sees that makes what is bad to appear desirable and acceptable. What we say reveals what we think, what the mind sees or believes to be the truth or reality. Our reading says, “So too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”
Luke 6:39-45. Jesus saw that all too often people criticized others but that they were guilty of far worse, showing that they were blind to their own guilt. It is only natural to show partiality in judging ourselves generously and others overbearingly and negatively. It is only by living our lives the God who sees fully and truly, can we be just as God is just. Jesus says in our reading, “For every tree is known by its own fruits.” Later in the text he says, “For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” What is the life or life-giving force of our hearts? What fills our hearts that shows itself in our words, actions, emotions, facial expressions and attitudes? Growing in communion with God whose Body we eat and whose Blood we drink makes Jesus the life of our hearts. Living Jesus as the life of our hearts, begging him to be the Lord of our hearts, Jesus, with us working alongside of him, cultivates us to become the good tree bearing only good fruit. What joy it brings to grow more and more in the Lord!
1 Corinthians 15:54-58. What we cannot do God can. Sin and death have been crushed through Christ. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Know “that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
7C19. 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23. Opportunities! Should we take advantage of them despite the risks that might be involved? In giving us opportunities what does the Lord want of us? God had given David the opportunity to win the war of who is King in this world or the heavenly, moral war of who proves himself a son of God the Father and not a son of the ways of this world. David acted out of a righteousness and love that was not of this world and it ways, but of God’s ways. In whose eyes should we achieve victory: in God’s eyes or the eyes of people who think in the customary ways of this world? By whose measure do we measure? The real victory belonged to David because he chose to please God above all.
Luke 6:27-38. The title of this Gospel should be: “Be love as God is love.” It is by his measure of love that we should measure and not by any worldly measure. Jesus offers a way of thinking that contradicts the ways of this world: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” In other words, love as God loves. It is impossible for God to hate because the essence of God is love. He must always be who he is. Human hatred for God cannot make God hate in return. At the point of one’s death he can allow us to live in our eternal hatred and go to hell because that was what we freely chose, even though it never was what he wanted. Hell is a state of being that those who choose it create for themselves by choosing to live without the only source of eternal goodness. God never sends anyone to hell because he hates us, although we may have given him every reason to hate us. God acts only to help us go to heaven by helping us to become love as he is love. “Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Nonetheless we have been given by God the power to reject his merciful love because God did not create a world of robots, since robots do not have the capacity to love nor become love.
Jesus said, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” We leave to God what belongs to God alone. Judging belongs only to God. We can certainly recognize evil when we see it but must leave to God alone all final decisions. We must pray for those who seem to have chosen to be evil to the end of their lives. God expects the love that he pours into us to make us as he is: truly loving children of the loving God who is our Father.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49. Paul writes, “It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit.” Adam received life; Jesus gives life. Because Jesus is not only human but divine, he is infinite love. His love gives life that can never end, because his love can never die. Jesus gives to those who choose to receive it, life that can never die because his gift of love to us can never die. Paul ends this Sunday’s epistle with the words: “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.” The image of the earthly one is a creature of the earth. In Genesis 3:19b, c, God says to Adam, “You return to the ground from which you were taken; for you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” (I deleted the word ‘until’ for a better flow.) From our creation out of the dirt of this earth, our inheritance from Adam is to go back to that from which we came. However, Jesus, by his death on the cross and resurrection to new life, has given us a spiritual life that has raised us up to a life beyond anything this earth can give. In John 17:16, Jesus said, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” To those who have given themselves over to Jesus as the source of their life, Jesus’ love for us gives us the other-worldly spiritual life. In John 17:26, Jesus said, “I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I them.” Jesus’ life is in us when we live in never-ending communion with him.
6C19. Jeremiah 17:5-8 & Psalm1. In whom or what is our life rooted: the things and people of this world or in God? If it is in the things or people of this world, then we are “a barren bush in the desert,” cursed, worthless and doomed. If it is in God, there we are like “a tree planted near running water,” fruitful and green.
Luke 6:17, 20-26. Matthew’s beatitudes emphasize the spiritual; whereas Luke’s beatitudes center on one’s immediate earthly situation. It may seem to people who have a worldly perspective on everyday life that what is important is what things and what friends you have that draw admiration from the surrounding world. Being blessed in the sight of this world where in time everything will rot or simply pass away into oblivion is to be cursed by not having what endures through all time. This world obscures and perverts what is truly valuable because its vision is myopic or short-sighted, seeing only what is near and physical and not what is spiritual and eternal. It seems to this world that God sees things in a manner that is upside down and maybe even inside out. However, God is the only measure of what is genuinely true and real. The world’s vision obliterates the truth in order to have whatever pleases it. For the world truth and reality only challenge self-interests and so must be disposed of.
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20. Paul writes here to reassert that Jesus physically arose from the dead. Paul is challenging the teaching that some were putting forth that Jesus’ resurrection was only the fact that he is remembered in peoples’ hearts and mind but that Jesus did not actually, physically arise from the dead. This is once again truth and reality seen and rearranged through a worldly vision and not God’s. Paul is clear to point out to the Corinthians that our faith is in a God who has power over death and other natural forces. If Jesus arose only in peoples’ memories, that will be our fate too. However, our faith is in the God who is eternal, on whom time has no bonds. As he is eternal, he shares his never ending life and love with us, his sons and daughters over whom death has no power.
5C19. Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8. Isaiah, on feeling that the frame of the house shook and filled with smoke, cried out, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.” The seraphim touched the mouth of Isaiah with an ember taken from the altar and said, “Your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” When the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here I am; send me!” Before the great display of the power of the Lord, Isaiah felt his own profound unworthiness because of his sinfulness. However, it was by God’s power that he was made worthy and so enabled Isaiah to be God’s prophet to his people.
Luke 5:1-11. Jesus, knowing what he planned to do, got into Simon’s boat so that he could preach to the crowd that was on the shore. Jesus then ordered Simon to put out into deep water and lower the nets for a catch. Simon, yet to be named Peter, acquiesced to Jesus’ command despite the fact that he thought the effort would be fruitless because they had gotten nothing after fishing all night. Simon, stunned at the sudden great catch of fish to the point that their nets were tearing, “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’” As with Isaiah, God turned sinful men into people who were missionaries worthy to fulfil God’s calling to bring people into God’s kingdom. “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-11. When we read the epistles, it should be with the mind that Paul is responding to some issue or need in the church community to which he writes. In other words, we only know one part of the dialog. Next week we read further that the issue he is responding to this week is that some said that there was no resurrection of the dead. This week Paul lays the groundwork to assert the genuine resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Paul says that Jesus himself appeared to many after the resurrection, including to Paul himself. Then Paul digresses to how unworthy Paul was to be personally called by Jesus, since Paul intensely “persecuted the church of God.” Paul asserts that it was and is by the grace of God that he is what he is, a very effective missionary for the church of God. As with Isaiah and Peter, now with Paul, God turns a sinner into a person who was a missionary worthy to fulfil God’s calling to bring people into God’s kingdom. Without God no one can be holy; with God we cannot be anything but holy.