Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The story is quickly coming to its climax. Jesus’ claims of divinity are really starting to rile the Jews.  They have placed their hope in Abraham and the prophets – great men to be sure – but seem to have forgotten about the promise of a Messiah, and so they totally miss the Christ who is standing right in front of them.  It’s a sad situation, to be sure.  But it is also quickly becoming dangerous for Jesus.  These are the ones who will stir up the trouble at his trial and get them to release Barabbas, putting Jesus on the cross instead.

And I feel like it’s necessary to make a quick aside here.  We have heard and will hear many references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel.  This wording was used for centuries to make legitimate anti-Semitic comments and policies, blaming them for killing the Lord.  But this is John’s Gospel, and Jesus is in full control.  He knows what is in their hearts.  The Jews may indeed want to take his life, but Jesus instead willingly lays it down.  Because that was his mission; that is his mission – to give himself completely for our salvation, and the salvation of the whole world.  And honestly, if we want to blame someone for sending Jesus to the cross, we know only too well that we don’t have to look any further than our own hearts.

What we see in today’s Liturgy of the Word, ultimately, is that God made a promise to Abraham, and, in the person of Jesus Christ, kept that promise.  Abraham was made a mighty nation, God’s promises have always been kept, and we have salvation in Christ.  That’s our Good News today, and every day really.  As we enter the somber days ahead, we have the joy of keeping the end of the story clearly in mind, that Resurrection that Abraham himself so longed to see.

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I want to feel bad for Lot’s wife in today’s first reading.  Not only is she not even called by name in the entire reading, but she gets turned into a pillar of salt just for a backward glance.  But, sad as it is, this is the whole point of the reading, and it’s not like they weren’t warned – the angel was very clear: “Flee for your life!  Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain.  Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.”  So in some ways, she deserved what she got.  But I think the reading is getting at something a little deeper here than a mere glance over one’s shoulder.

Indeed the real issue is, what did that looking back mean?  Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed for their wanton evil.  They may have once been wonderful cities, but they had become centers of every kind of evil and debased action.  And this evil was so pervasive that no other corrective action other than total destruction of the cities would do.  If yesterday had not been the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, we would have heard the famous reading about Abraham and God bargaining to save those cities.  At the end of it all, God agrees at Abraham’s urging not to destroy the place if just ten righteous people could be found there.  Obviously the righteous numbered less than ten, amounting to just Lot, his wife, and his two daughters.

But, so pervasive was the evil of that place, that it infected even Lot’s wife, who didn’t just glance back to see if she dropped something.  No, the backward glance was more likely sorrow for what she left behind; she was not untainted by the scandal of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The lesson is that when God leads us forward, we cannot debase ourselves to look back.  The Psalmist has it right today, as always, when he says, “For your mercy is before my eyes, and I walk in your truth.”  Your mercy is before my eyes, so I need to look forward, not back.  Looking backward leads us to our old sinful ways; looking forward is what leads us to our God.  So if God is giving us the chance to move forward, as he did for Lot and his wife and his daughters, then we can do no less than fix our eyes on the path ahead, cutting our ties with everything that is behind us.

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The story is quickly coming to its climax. Jesus’ claims of divinity are really starting to rile the Jews. They have placed their hope in Abraham and the prophets – great men to be sure – but seem to have forgotten about the promise of a Messiah, and so they totally miss the Christ who is standing right in front of them. It’s a sad situation, sure. But it is also quickly becoming dangerous for Jesus. These are the ones who will stir up the trouble at his trial and get them to release Barabbas, putting Jesus on the cross instead.

And I feel like it’s necessary to make a quick aside here. We have heard and will hear many references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel. This wording was used for centuries to make legitimate anti-Semitic comments and policies, blaming them for killing the Lord. But this is John’s Gospel, and Jesus is in full control. He knows what is in their hearts. The Jews may indeed want to take his life, but Jesus instead willingly lays it down. Because that was his mission; that is his mission – to give himself completely for our salvation, and the salvation of the whole world.

What we see in today’s Liturgy of the Word, ultimately, is that God made a promise to Abraham, and, in the person of Jesus Christ, kept that promise. Abraham was made a mighty nation, God’s promises have always been kept, and we have salvation in Christ. That’s our Good News today, and every day really. As we enter the somber days ahead, we have the joy of keeping the end of the story clearly in mind, that Resurrection that Abraham himself so longed to see.