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Wednesday, third week of Lent

February 27, 2008

Blessed Wednesday!

Lord, during this Lenten season
nourish us with Your Word of life
and make us one in love and prayer.
Grant 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 today’s Mass)

Readings:
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 (God’s law gives justice, intelligence and wisdom)
Psalm 147:12-20 “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem”
+Matthew 5:17-19 (Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it)

“This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people” (Deuteronomy 4:6)

Why?

Because God has “proclaimed His Word to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; His ordinances He has not made known to them” (Psalm 147:19-20).

In other words, Israel has the inside scoop from God Himself! They don’t have to figure things out the hard way, like everyone else. They can skip the trial and error–which usually involves an awful lot of error.

There’s a catch, though. Just because you know what’s right doesn’t necessarily mean you do what’s right, which is why Israel so often got themselves in so much trouble. God tried to warn them (our first reading is one long plea for them to keep the commandments and to pass them on as a prized inheritance). But, following right along in the footsteps of Adam & Eve, they went ahead & tried to invent their own definitions of right and wrong anyway (plucking more fruit from that forbidden tree of the “knowledge of good and evil”) instead of taking advantage of what God had so patiently tried to teach them throughout salvation history. They learned the hard way.

That had changed by the time Jesus began His ministry. The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders had finally fostered a love of the commandments–at least on the surface. The letter of the Law, if not perfectly kept, was at least socially agreed upon. It was a step in the right direction which Jesus confirmed by declaring that He had not come to do away with the Law. What He had come to do was to fulfill it, to fill it full of its divine meaning–to fill it full of divine Love. He had come to free us from our craven slave mentality, to teach us to respond to the Law as beloved sons and daughters, who treasure their Father’s wise guidance in steering them away from unseen dangers.

He had also come to plumb new depths in that Law, to get to the heart of the matter–literally. We had finally gotten the message that certain external actions were wrong, but hadn’t yet acknowledged that those actions were the fruit of spiritually diseased hearts. Today’s passage about the importance of the Law is followed immediately by Jesus’ drawing us to examine our hearts, that we might destroy sin at its root.

This is a good exercise for this season of Lent, especially as we celebrate the Sacrament of Confession. As long as we’re searching our hearts anyway, uncovering things we’ve done wrong and bringing them into God’s purifying light, let’s look deeper. What caused those actions? What are their roots? What circumstances make it easier for us to sin? What insecurities put us at risk? What can we do about them? What can we avoid, or move toward, or bring to prayer in order to break, or at least weaken, patterns of sin? How can we use the graces of the Sacrament of Confession to change our lives? What can we do to become “truly a wise and intelligent people”?

May God guide our search, that this Sacrament may truly be a life-changing event…for eternity.

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