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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

February 28, 2009

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)

Readings:
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)

“The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to invite the self-righteous to repentance, but sinners.” (Luke 5:32)

This was certainly good news to the tax collectors and sinners seated around the table with Jesus. Jesus was saying that He had come for them, that He had an invitation for them.

It wasn’t such good news to the Pharisees who were challenging Him. Jesus answered their protests with a ringing counter-challenge. Did they have the humility to admit their own wretchedness, to identify themselves with the riff-raff around His table? Do we? Are we willing to be seen with thieves and murderers, prostitutes and liars at the wedding of the Lamb? Or are we too “high and mighty” to take a seat next to St. Dismas, King David, St. Mary Magdalen and the other penitents who found their healing in Jesus’ sacrifice?

You see, all of us are included in Jesus’ invitation. We’re all sinners. “There is none righteous, no, not one…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Our sins may be more socially acceptable or easier to conceal, but they still make us spiritually sick. The Divine Physician came to heal us. But He won’t heal us without our consent, without our cooperation. This is where public sinners have an edge over those who have an image to maintain. Jesus found, and finds, the riff-raff much easier to reach than the “respectable folks”. Thank God that “for God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)! He can get a camel through the eye of a needle if we’ll only let Him!

Once we’ve taken the first vulnerable step, admitting our need, then we need to take the next vulnerable step of obedience to His prescription.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in Your sight” (Psalm 86:11)

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. We need to give God priority on His own day, setting aside our own plans on Sundays and turning our hearts wholly to Him.

God paints for us a glorious picture of the spiritual health we can expect from these remedies.

“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, allowing Him to remove obstacles and nourish holiness in your life, 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 new hope, strength and delight in this new life of holiness.

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