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Thursday, third week of Lent

March 23, 2006

Blessed St. Toribio of Mongrevejo’s Day! (look for his story in a neighboring post)

Today we pass the halfway point between Ash Wednesday and Easter. How are you doing on the journey?

Readings:
Jeremiah 7:23-28 (God’s people are rebellious)
Psalm 95:1-9 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”
+Luke 11:14-23 (those who aren’t for Jesus are against Him)

When our language becomes distorted, it won’t be long before our thoughts and actions become warped too.

“Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech” (Jeremiah 7:28)

It’s a sad commentary, not limited to Jeremiah’s day. How many words of courtesy and devotion have been banished from our language. Whatever happened to “ladies first”, or wearing our “Sunday best” in honor of Almighty God? Other words have been so distorted that their meaning is no longer pure and innocent. How about “Gentleman’s club”? Or “for mature audiences”? There’s nothing gentlemanly nor mature about the indulgence of lust. And while we still use the word “faithfulness”, it seems to have been sapped of a lot of its meaning. “You can count on me–unless it becomes unpleasant for me. I’ve got to do what makes me happy, you know.”

“It is by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils” (Luke 11:15)

Clever. Not wise.

“If one of you is wise and understanding, let him show this in practise through humility filled with good sense.”-James 3:13.

Jesus’ accusers seem to have lost out on both counts there. Attributing His casting out of devils to an evil power is neither humble nor sensible.

“Should you instead nurse bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, at least refrain from arrogant and false claims against the truth.” -James 3:14

Missed it again. Jesus is the Truth, and these claims against Him are certainly arrogant and false!

“Wisdom like this does not come from above. It is earthbound, a kind of animal, even devilish cunning. Where there are jealousy and strife, there also are inconstancy and all kinds of vile behavior.”-James 3:15-16

That explains a lot of what we see happening all around us…and, if we’re brutally honest, what we see happening within our own hearts. We can justify just about anything by making it sound good, by redefining a word here & there. It’s the same kind of cunning the devil pulled on Eve, making evil seem so reasonable. So how do we know the difference, when good and evil both look good, when the counterfeit looks so real? We are a house divided against itself, that cannot stand (see Luke 11:17). How do we know which side is the right one, which side to choose?

“Wisdom from above, by contrast, is first of all innocent. It is also peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and the kindly deeds that are its fruits, impartial and sincere.”-James 3:17

So where do we get this innocence?

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Thy word.”-Psalm 119:9

We’re back to obedience, to that humility which measures our thoughts, words and actions by God’s standards–that lesson our Teacher keeps presenting to us. The devil is the “strong man” Jesus referred to, who guards us as his captives (see Luke 11:21-22). Only God is stronger than he. Only God can overpower him and set us free. But we have to want His freedom. We have to follow Him freely. We have to gather with Him (Luke 11:23), which means gathering with the Church He established to perpetuate His Presence among us on earth until the end of time (Matthew 28:20–directed to the Apostles, who were the first bishops). He will not carry us off forcibly the way the devil does. God will, however, send us prophet after prophet, whether we listen to them or not (“they will not listen to you either”-Jeremiah 7:27), whether we kill them or not. Even when we’ve shown ourselves utterly opposed to Him (“It is by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils” -Luke 11:15), He patiently cuts through our smokescreen with His Truth. He knows we’ve been duped, that we’ve bought into a captivity to sin that masquerades as freedom. He offers us wisdom from above, a gift of His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2).

May we learn to speak the language of Heaven, the language of wisdom from above, in humility filled with good sense.

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