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Thursday, third week of Lent

February 28, 2008

Blessed Thursday!

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

Father, help us to be ready to celebrate the great paschal mystery.
Make our love grow each day
as we approach the feast of our salvation.
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 today’s Mass)

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)

How can a Shepherd guide a flock that will not listen to Him? How can He gather sheep who turn their backs, harden their hearts, and stiffen their necks? Are they not doomed to scatter, becoming easy prey for the wolf, the bear and the lion?

“This is the nation which does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech” (Jeremiah 7:28). This is God’s lament over His beloved flock, over sheep hell-bent on their own destruction. They succeeded, too, generation after generation, despite God’s repeated pleadings, His persistent rescue missions.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus rescues one of His precious lambs from the very teeth of the lion, driving out an evil spirit that had robbed a man of speech. “He must be in league with the lion!” Oh, how patient God is with our stupidity! “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste. Any house torn by dissension falls” (Luke 11:17). Elementary, my dear Watson…

Yes, the kingdom of evil will fall, but not because it’s divided. The “strong man” has been overpowered. Jesus has carried off the devil’s “arms” of deception and has freed the prisoner.

What about my own kingdom? Am I divided against myself? “He who does not gather with Me scatters” (Luke 11:23). Because I am made in the image and likeness of God, made for union with Him, when I turn against God, even by neglect, I turn against myself. Our enemy knows this better than we do–he’s all too happy to “divide and conquer”.

Fortunately, God has shown us the way out: “Listen to My voice; then I shall be your God and you shall be My people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper” (Jeremiah 7:23). Or in other words, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8). Our Shepherd calls His scattered flock to Himself, that we may gather with Him in the unity that stands strong against deception. When we turn our faces to Him, soften our hard hearts and relax our stiff necks, the lion doesn’t stand a chance.

“Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the Lord Who made us.
For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds,
the flock He guides” (Psalm 95:6-7)

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