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Tuesday, Second Week of Lent

February 19, 2008

Blessed Tuesday!

Lord, watch over Your Church,
and guide it with Your unfailing love.
Protect us from what could harm us
and lead us to what will save us.
Help us always, for without You we are bound to fail.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
(Opening prayer of today’s Mass)

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 (let’s set things right)
Psalm 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23 “To the upright I will show the saving power of God”
Matthew 23:1-12 (leaders must be humble servants)

“You’re paying an awfully high price for something that isn’t there”

This was directed at a cat who endured repeated scolding, squirting and confinement for the sake of trying to get at food on the countertop–after the food had already been removed.

What an object lesson on sin!

We’re looking for happiness. Whatever our short-term goals may be, they all point toward this long-term desire. But all too often our search is misguided. We’re “looking for happiness in all the wrong places”, quite often in counterfeits (the devil’s specialty).

The Scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel had fallen into this trap. Jesus tells us to do and observe what they teach, because their teaching did indeed point to Him, but not to follow their example of unbelief. Pseudo Chrysostom explains that this was because “they did not preach that Christ should come through any desire of His coming, but that they might be seen by men to be doctors of the Law”! (emphasis added)

They were looking for glory–which is indeed related to happiness–but they were settling for the counterfeit “glory” of human admiration, so empty and fleeting. It cost them the true glory, the true happiness of experiencing God in the flesh before their very eyes (“The glory of God is man fully alive, but the life of man is the contemplation of God” -St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Against Heresies”). How utterly tragic!

This is exactly God’s point. We think He’s our enemy in this search for happiness because He so often says “No” to things we find attractive. But He’s actually on our side. He wants us to be happy beyond our wildest dreams! He says “No” because He sees through the deceptions that fool us. He knows there’s no food on the countertop, no lasting happiness in fame or money or any other stolen pleasure! He sees us running after greed and selfishness of all kinds, thinking these things lead to happiness, so He call us up short. He has to.

“Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18).

Not only does He want to point us in the right direction, He’s even willing to pay for the damage we’ve caused by our insistence on sin. “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

He gives us clarity in the midst of deception–if we take Him at His word and obey, we will be happy. If we count on our own perceptions over His, it will be to our own misery.

May we hold out for true happiness from the hand of God.

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