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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

February 9, 2008

Blessed Saturday!

Father, look upon our weakness
and reach out to help us with Your loving power.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(Opening Prayer for Mass)

Isaiah 58:9-14 (obeying God’s law brings new hope)
Psalm 86:1-6 “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in Your sight”
+Luke 5:27-32 (Jesus came for sinners)

Lent is all about repentance, about a sorrow for sin that leads to changing your mind and changing your life to remove the obstacles to holiness, to union with the all-holy God.

But in order to repent, we first need to know something’s wrong. The Pharisees and scribes who protested Jesus’ dining with known sinners were in no position to repent. They thought they were spiritually healthy! The public sinners knew better, which is why Jesus found their company so refreshing, and why priests often find prison ministry so rewarding. Those who know they’re sick are more likely to be receptive to the doctor’s remedies, however unpleasant those remedies may be.

That said, diagnosis is only the first step. There’s no point in changing my mind and changing my life if I make the wrong changes!

“Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in Your sight”

God begins the first reading by answering that prayer, laying out very specific changes He wants to see:

“remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech”

Oh, how easy it is to trip yourself up with the tongue, to badger others into making life easy for yourself at their expense, to assume the worst of others, to pass on juicy morsels of gossip. We need to go under the knife of our Divine Surgeon, that He may remove these from our midst.

“bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted…hold back your foot on the Sabbath, from following your own pursuits on My holy day”

Health is more than a lack of disease. Once the cancer’s been removed, we still need to build up strength and energy, exercising our spiritual muscles in concrete acts of brotherly love and divine worship (especially on Sunday).

God paints for us a glorious picture of the reward we can expect.

“Light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake…you shall delight in the Lord.”

Any darkness or gloom in your life? Any dryness? What about ancient ruins–relationships you’re sure can never be rebuilt, dreams that died a painful death? God is bigger. As you apply His remedies, removing obstacles and nourishing holiness, gloom will give way before His radiant light. Your desert will blossom like a watered garden. He even has a plan for those ancient ruins; while there is life, there is hope: “For a tree there is hope, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that its tender shoots will not cease. Even though its roots grow old in the earth and its stump die in the dust, yet at the first whiff of water it may flourish again and put forth branches like a young plant” (Job 14:7-9).

May we find joy in the new life of repentance.

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