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Saturday After Ash Wednesday

February 20, 2010

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)

What’s delightful about giving up our own interests?

Here we are, on the verge of our Sabbath, our “little Easter” and God is urging us to call it a delight. So far, so good. But He goes on to tell us that on this delightful day, we are not to follow our own ways, seek our own interests or speak with malice. So how are we supposed to find delight in giving up our own ways?!

The fact that we have to ask tells us that we’re eligible for a seat at the table with the tax collectors and sinners who gathered around Jesus at Levi’s/Matthew’s (see Mathew 9:9) house. We’re the ones for whom Jesus came. We are not as spiritually healthy as we like to think! We need a change of heart.

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

So we have spiritual symptoms…but the question remains: What’s delightful about giving up our own interests? God wouldn’t have said it if there wasn’t something to it.

Our clue lies in what happened right before that banquet. Levi was in the midst of following his own ways, of seeking his own interests, when Jesus saw him and said, “Follow Me.” Immediately, Levi stood up, left everything behind, and followed Jesus. Levi stopped following his own lucrative interests in order to follow God instead.

Why?

Very simply, Levi had found something better. He had been called by Someone who had, perhaps for the first time in his life, really seen him, someone who wanted him for who he was despite his despised line of work. Who really sees a tax collector, anyway, even today? The Scriptures here use a relatively unusual Greek word that means to “look closely at”. Jesus had fixed His attention on this man–and had chosen him.

That’s powerful.

Levi knew in that instant that no amount of money, no amount of anything he had ever pursued in his life, could ever bring him greater happiness than the mere Presence of this Man. He had found the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, and he sold everything he had in order to obtain it (note that he is the only Gospel writer to record those parables!–Matthew 13:44-46). Then he celebrated his new found treasure by throwing a banquet, inviting the people he knew to come and experience this treasure for themselves.

What God’s trying to tell us is that what happened to Levi can happen to us. God has seen you, really seen you, more deeply and with greater love than even your most intimate friend or relative. He has valued you, chosen you, called you. The treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, is yours for the asking, if only you will relinquish all the empty things in which you were searching for happiness. You, like Levi, must stop chasing shadows in order to lay claim to the Reality that cast them. God never asks us to leave anything unless He has something better–unbelievably better–to give to us. No amount of money or prestige, no pleasure or thrill, will ever hold a candle to the depth of joy you will find in the mere Presence of this tremendous Lover.

This is what the Sabbath (Sunday, for us, by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection) is meant to be. On Sunday God calls us to stop chasing our empty shadows in order to delight in His Presence.

Now He’s looking at you.

Return His attentive gaze.

Bask in the warmth of His holy Face.

Hear the words addressed to you alone: “Follow Me.”

Find delight in leaving your shadows behind.

Yours in divine delight,

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