Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week

We've been looking through John's eyes, watching everything unfold, seeing along with him the connections he did not make until long afterwards. Today is a step away, yesterday's account again but through Matthew's eyes. Judas has a moment of decision not set down in John: he has the chance to weigh those thirty pieces of silver against Christ's warning to him. “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.” It's the most casual of actions, that of two good friends eating together. If Judas had chosen otherwise it could have stayed that way: in their exchanges, Christ always left that door open. But instead, that act of friendship marks Judas as the betrayer, just as another act of friendship will mark the betrayal itself. He chooses the silver; worse, he chooses to trade on his intimacy with Christ. In so doing he destroys it; there is nothing left for him to call on later in his despair. It was not only Christ he sold; it was himself, and being bought he could not imagine being free.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday of Holy Week

“Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.” Night because then began the “hour of darkness”, of Christ's betrayal. Night, because that was when one day ended and another began (“evening came, and morning followed”), and that day began the eternal day of our salvation. Night, because that was when weddings were held, and this was the new Passover; the wedding feast of the Lamb. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” All of those meanings are there – but for now, the Gospel focuses on the first one. On Judas' betrayal, which plays out almost as soon as Christ speaks of it – it is something over and done with as soon as possible – and on Peter's betrayal.

There will always be those who, like Judas, turn away from their faith and the God they once professed, and despair. But there will also the rest of us who, like Peter, are stricken by our betrayal and come again to God. There are few moments in Scripture more bitter than this one: “And Christ turned and looked at him.” Nothing is said and nothing needs to be. That gaze has rested on all of us at one point or another; we who call ourselves Catholics can scarcely have avoided it. As with the first Vicar of Christ, so with all of us – or, if not, what has this past month been about?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week

“Here is my chosen one with whom I am pleased. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” Isaiah, writing from exile, sketches out the figure of the one who will end all exile. “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice...” But where is the justice in what is unfolding in the Gospel accounts? How do we see a victory when we see Christ on the Cross? There are even those who bear the name Christian that consider it a defeat. Where do we see victory? At St. Alphonsus in Baltimore, there's a crucifix of Christ in the midst of His agony, eyes not on us but raised to His Father. Therein lies the victory – He did what we could not do, He did not cry out except to submit Himself wholly to the Father's will.

Coming back to the Gospel, Jesus is still on the way to Jerusalem. It is only days before Passover and He is at dinner with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It is the last dinner with them, it is the last night before His entry into Jerusalem, and He knows that full well. John, looking back, knows it as well; he remembers every detail. “The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Mary will look back on it also – it will be a memory she can treasure, to keep against the day of Jesus' burial. Judas only looks at the money lost.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday of 5th Week

There's a story of a French journalist, an atheist, who went to Lourdes in order to see a miracle. Nothing big; just a cut finger healing over; this God who didn't exist anyway wouldn't have to do very much. He met a woman whose face was disfigured by tuberculosis. He met her again a little later, healed but scarred where the tuberculosis had been. He refused to look at her and walked away, saying that he would not believe no matter how many miracles took place.

The Gospel today comes in the wake of one of the last miracles of Christ's ministry, and by no means the least: the raising of Lazarus. The Sanhedrin gets word of it, and they believe it – but they do not believe Christ. There is nothing, not even the raising of a man from the dead, that can move them to do that. They believe the miracle, but their response is to figure out how to silence Jesus before the Romans decide to. Caiaphas, the high priest, the man who by right should have been first to follow Jesus, makes what seems a purely political decision. It is in fact a prophecy but, deadened as he is to God, he does not realize it.

“You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” On that note, we enter into Holy Week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday of 5th Week

God asks nothing from us that He does not, in Christ, take upon Himself. There's nothing of love in demanding of someone else a task you yourself refuse to take on. The best reward still leaves that person only a valued employee - a good tool, but nobody loves a tool however useful it is. The situation Jeremiah finds himself in, of trusted friends now whispering and plotting against Him, Christ willingly accepts for Himself in the Gospel. Just a few days ago, in this same account, the men He is speaking to believed in Him. If He'd given them soft words, neither lying nor telling the full truth, they would still. But just as Jeremiah could not hold back from prophesying, neither can Christ restrain Himself; and now the crowd is ready to stone Him.

Christ defends Himself to the crowd on the basis of the works He has performed. They are not His but the Father's, and as such they stand in testimony to Him. He's speaking of His miracles, but it's all the more true of His work upon the Cross. Even when we find it hard to believe Him – we can believe that work. When we have no strength for anything else, we can still cling to the Cross.

Thursday of 5th Week

“Our father is Abraham” - that was the protest of the Jews to Christ yesterday, and today fills in the background to that claim. We're brought back to Abraham and the first covenant, to God swearing His half and laying out the covenant promises. The covenant is not between them only, but extends to all of Abraham's descendants; they have only to keep the covenant and everything that God promised will be theirs.

They've kept the covenant, by fits and starts, but they do not understand what all of it was pointing to. Abraham did – Jesus tells them that he “rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” But they are not; they are not true children of Abraham, and they do not take kindly to Christ saying so. Their belief in Him begins to shred; they question Jesus again, in more hostile words, and when He again lays claim to divinity they try to stone Him.

They aren't so different from the Jews of Jeremiah's day, who heard only what they wanted to hear. They aren't so different from anyone living today. Who really wants to know the full truth of himself? If we've been staying the course in Lent, we've been stripped of some comforts. We've lost some illusions. We're a little more ready to know those truths, and the Truth will soon be lifted up for us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday of 5th Week's back to Daniel, the Babylonian Exile, and a story ruined forever for me by VeggieTales. It's not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. No. It's Rack, Shack, and Benny...and the Bunny Song they must not sing. In the Biblical version, the king challenges the three men: “Who is the God that can deliver you out of my hands?” From that God, in today's Gospel, comes the answer: “If the Son frees you, you will be truly free.” Christ, though, is not speaking of physical slavery, but of slavery to sin. He is speaking to the Jews who believe in Him, and He is just as harsh towards them as towards the Pharisees. If they remain in His word, they will truly be His disciples, and then the truth will set them free. None of it is settled; many of them will yet choose to remain in slavery. They'll stick with Him through Palm Sunday, no further.

“Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” There's a world, literally, of difference between that and the popular idea that real freedom is the freedom to do whatever you want – even sin. Christ today is saying that the way to freedom is to follow Him; to refuse to sin even though the refusal will seem to limit our freedom. This season calls us to more than simple refusal; Christ did far more than simply 'not sin', and we're reminded to follow Him the entire way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday of 5th Week

“So they said to him, “Who are you?”

He is the eternal Word – spoken over the waters, issuing from the burning bush, heard from the cloud on Sinai. He is who He has told the Jews He is “from the beginning” - and by that, He does not mean “from the beginning of my public ministry.” He means a time far beyond that, from before that first sounding of God's voice over the waters. He is I AM, and if the Jews do not believe Him on this, they will die in their sins. He will condemn them – where, a day earlier and in the same scene, He refused to condemn a woman who was clearly a sinner.

John continues to lead us towards the Passion, through an ever-unfolding revelation of who Christ is. Today He makes a clear and public claim to divinity, and many of the people do come to believe in Him. Yet - for everything that Christ says now, for all the power and the majesty it contains, He will make a statement more powerful still. He will make it in silence, and by it He will draw all men to Himself. The question posed by the Jews will be turned back to each of us for our answer.

“Who do you say that I am?”

Monday of 5th Week

Susannah is accused of adultery by two elders of the people – respected men, pillars of the community, whose word could be trusted. Except that they themselves were guilty of adultery. A woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus, and when He allows “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone,” the elders are the first to remember they have business elsewhere.

In both accounts, the elders are guilty of the charge they lay; in both accounts, they are not following the Law but using it for their own ends. In the story of Susanna, it takes a youth, Daniel, to remind the people that the Law is meant for justice; Jesus reminds the people that it is meant also for mercy. Nobody is left who condemns the woman, and so neither does Christ condemn her. Where the Pharisees sought to use God's Law for a trap, Christ uses it for freedom: “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” He sends her, and beyond her all of us, away with that command.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday of 4th Week

“No prophet arises from Galilee.” “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?” Galilee – that ignorant backwater? Come on, even the Galileans didn't think that one of them could be the Messiah, what more proof do you need? Nicodemus points out that the Pharisees are judging Christ before they've heard Him out. The Pharisees mock him - “You are not from Galilee also, are you?”; sneer at the crowds for not knowing the Law; and go off to their own homes. They never give a moment's consideration to the possibility that they are wrong. They will condemn Christ for making Himself out to be God; but they are setting themselves up so high that they might as well be making that claim themselves. The crowd doesn't know the Law. They know the Law. The crowd doesn't know God. They know God. They are so full of their own pride that there is nothing Christ can say that they will listen to.

The crowds are confused and divided; the Pharisees are full of their pride and their plots; the only moment of grace to be found comes from the guards. “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” It's not quite a confession of faith – only of uncertainty. But it's a starting point, something God can work with for those who permit Him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday of 4th Week

“For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him...with revilement and torture let us put him to the test...let us condemn him to a shameful death.” The first reading is a description, from the viewpoint of evil, of what is unfolding in the Gospel this week and next. It is also a retelling of what happens to any of us who speak up for God, and His Church. Any time we show ourselves as belonging to God and not to the world, we can expect these same tests and persecutions. “The wicked are not thinking aright” - what they see is not what is there. It's a common accusation that we Christians are out of touch with reality, etc. But in reality, the opposite is true.

The Gospel is another account of persecution – Christ can no longer travel safely in Judea, and His journey to Jerusalem for the feast is in secret (so far as Christ is able to maintain secrecy – not very far, as we see). Sandwiched between the two comes a promise of protection, in the day's Psalm – the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He will deliver the just man no matter his troubles. Holiness will bring a recompense.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday of 4th Week

Israel gets batted around like a ping-pong ball today. “Go down to your people whom you brought out of Egypt.” “Why should your wrath blaze up against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt?” God intends to destroy the people of Israel and begin again with Moses, as He once began with Abraham. Moses pleads with Him not to do that – to remember His covenants. They go back and forth on the fate of Israel, and down below, Israel is merrily sinning away and committing idolatry, with no idea that only Moses' intercession stands between them and death. God relents this time, at Moses' plea – but in the Gospel, Jesus tells the Israelites that Moses will be the one to accuse them before God. If they had truly believed Moses, they would believe also in Christ, and Moses will not defend them in their unbelief. Moses laid a simple choice of life or death before Israel; they have chosen death; he will say so to God.

Those who have gone before will witness either for or against us – the men of Nineveh; the queen of the South; Moses; the “cloud of witnesses” spoken of later by Paul. It isn't a remote God, untouched by our troubles, who will judge our case – it's the Son of Man who endured Gethsemane and Calvary, and the witnesses will be those who have endured and trusted in God despite everything. How well we measure up to them is up to us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday of 4th Week

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” There's a bitter overlay to that promise, here and now – yes, a mother can forget, and very easily indeed; and this verse is frequently pulled out as a reproof against that. It's hardly heard in any other context. But that is not its context. It is not a condemnation but the culmination of God's assurance that He will never abandon Israel. Even when they are most desolate and afflicted, He will comfort them. It's surely a verse that occurred to Jesus in his desolation, and it's one for us as well at times when God seems distant.

In the Gospel, He is anything but distant – He is also anything but easy to understand. Everything Christ has, He has from the Father; He can do nothing but what He sees the Father doing, and honor given to Him is honor given to the Father. He is given power of judgement over us, because he is not only the Son of God but also the Son of Man. It's a dense, rich passage, as are those that follow; most of what we are told of the Trinity comes from these discourses in John. Earlier was a time for action; now is a time to slow down, to consider what God is telling us of Himself.

The Jews understand one thing in all of this: Jesus is claiming equality with God, and they can only see that as blasphemy. Their persecution of Him increases to attempts to kill Him.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday of 4th Week

Jesus didn't often go after those He had healed. If they wished to seek Him out, they would; He never lingered. He follows that pattern today as well, slipping away as soon as He had performed the miracle. But this once, He seeks out the man He has cured in order to caution him. “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” What life did the man lead? He's no Lazarus-by-the-gate, that much is certain. He was content to wait years by the water in hopes of physical healing, but when offered the living water of Christ, the water of which Ezekiel speaks, he walks away. He goes to inform the Pharisees that Jesus was the one to heal him, and it is by his action that the persecution of Christ begins in earnest.

Monday of 4th Week

“A prophet has no honor in his native place.” It's one of the few passages common to all four Gospels, but John brings it to a very different conclusion than the others. The lesson is not that Jesus could work few miracles because of their lack of faith. Far from it: it is in Cana of Galilee that Christ first reveals His glory and the disciples – Israel – come to believe in Him. It is in Cana again that the nations, in the person of the royal official, come to believe. “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.” We've had this promise from the beginning, it's been with us in seed form since the first pages of Scripture; now God begins to give signs of its fulfillment.

Just as the sign at Cana began His public ministry, so this sign is placed at the beginning of the road to the Cross; a series of Gospel passages from John that will see us through Holy Week. Jesus will face increasing conflict with the chief priests and the Pharisees; the crowds will now be supporting one side, now the other. We've passed the halfway point; the Father has come out to meet us; now it is time to focus anew as Lent begins to build to its conclusion.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday of 3rd Week

Today connects back to the very beginning of Lent, when Israel was certain it had done all the right things and couldn't understand why God hadn't noticed. The Israelites want to return to the Lord, but purely for what they can get out of it. They are taking God's love for granted, and you can hear Him sighing in frustration: “What can I do with you, Judah? Your piety is like a morning cloud...” It is love that God desires and not sacrifice. It is the humility of the tax collector, assuredly a sinful man, and not the self-assured pride of the Pharisee. Only Christ ever had the right to class Himself off from “the rest of humanity”, and He chose to embrace humanity. “He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In him – not in prayers spoken to ourselves rather than to God.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday of 3rd Week

On Wednesday, we heard for a final time God enjoining His Law on Israel. Yesterday, Jeremiah made clear that Israel had utterly failed to follow that Law. Today completes the cycle, with a promise of restoration given through Hosea. “'I will heal their defection,' says the Lord, 'I will love them freely.'” It's of a piece with other assurances: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...” “ Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her...” God can't help it – He can't hold back from loving His people and restoring them no matter the cost. But love is a give-and-take, and we have our part too, outlined in the Gospel: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In both the call to ancient Israel, and the call of Jesus in the Gospel, there is a common thread: we are to understand these things. They can't be a matter of parroted words or imitated actions; there is a reality to them, beyond words, that we must grasp. We're nearly halfway through Lent, and the character of the season will change in just a few days; take today, this fast day, to reflect on what understanding has so far come.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday of 3rd Week

“When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you.” It's a cynical joke that there are some people whose purpose in life is to be a warning to the rest of us, but Jeremiah actually lived that out. The Israelites never listened to a single prophecy of his, and he knew that they never would. Not before the Babylonian Exile, and amazingly, not afterwards either. Other, false prophets were telling them what they wanted to hear. He had only persecution and failure to look forward to, yet in that failure, he was being faithful to God's call.

Sometimes that is the role of any Christian, up against a world that has much more pleasant things to think about than the Cross. “Whoever is not with me is against me,” and right now that means being with Christ in the desolation of the desert and the way to Golgotha.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday of 3rd Week

“For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” When it's put that way – what more can Israel ask for? They're told only to observe the Law, and God will do the rest...why were they never able to do so for more than a hundred years together?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” When we look at what Christ did to fulfill the Law, or at the promises of the prophets that He upholds – what more can we ask for? He took on all of the punishments and opens to us all of the rewards – how is it that that is not enough?

In one biography of Mother Teresa, it's commented that her entire life was a returning again and again to the grace she received on that train to Darjeeling. A constant return, and a constant deepening – anyone who has had a “conversion experience” knows something of this. One experience becomes a well we can draw from time and again; but once we cease to refer to it or become complacent, it is a well that dries up. All of us have that through our baptism: grace always there for the taking. But only if we turn to it, if we do not forget.

Tuesday of 3rd Week

Fresh from his encounter with the Spirits, Scrooge rushes early to his office to catch Bob Cratchit arriving late - and throws him into the street. George Bailey winks up at Clarence, sings Auld Lang Syne with his family and neighbors – and tells the policemen to arrest Uncle Billy for thievery. Of course neither story ends that way. They can't. What might have been understandable, if not likeable, earlier on would now be inhuman – a man forgiven a debt he cannot pay simply does not turn around and exact revenge for it. Yet that is exactly what happens in Jesus' parable today – a story of Israel as a whole, and of each of us individually, when we refuse to forgive those who sin against us. What we owe to each other is nothing compared to what we owe to God, and He forgave us even as we crucified Him: how can we not in turn forgive each other? We are to do it “seventy-seven times”- in other words, as often as we need to; it is to be a habit for us. We are to do it from the heart – counterpoint to Christ's warning against harboring anger against your brother in your heart. We have recourse, every day this Lent, to the forgiveness of our sins in Confession. Our forgiveness of each other must be no less often.

Monday of 3rd Week

“If the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it?” Naaman, sent to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy, expects ceremony and incantations; a dramatic cure, befitting his rank. Instead he is given a simple errand, and in deliberately insulting fashion: nothing fit for the commander of an army. The villagers of Nazareth see just another of them, someone they watched grow from a toddler. Someone they think they know inside out. Nobody special, nobody to listen to any more than the next person to wander by.

It's not that God never asks the extraordinary of us – and it's not that we can never answer that challenge. But it's not an effort most of us can undertake, every day, for a lifetime. Worldly power has nothing to do with it; our pride and self-importance has nothing to do with it. Our desire for the extraordinary has nothing to do with it. Most of what God asks from us will be small things: Friday fasts instead of forty straight days. Forgiving from the heart rather than forgiving from a cross. “Small things with extraordinary love.” It's on the basis of those that we will be given the larger tasks, if and when they come.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday of 2nd Week

Paul, a Pharisee, knew very well what he was talking about when he wrote “if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” The Pharisees, the elder son in today's parable, had faith. No question. They knew the Law and they did everything exactly so...but they did it purely for the reward they would receive. They did not have love, not even for the Father from whom they would receive everything. It was purely service, a this-for-that relationship. Certainly they did not love their “younger brother” - the nations, who weren't quite so attentive to the Law or to God at all.

Most of us are a mix of the older son and the younger. We're running off, returning, then turning around to squint at those who aren't quite as fast as we are. But all the same, we remember what the Pharisees did not – that we did run off ourselves, that God pardoned our sin no less than that of those who are still on the return journey.

Friday of 2nd Week

Lent, as a path to the Cross, is building in intensity. On Wednesday Christ began His final journey to Jerusalem, and we had the first clear prophecy of the Passion; today, the Pharisees begin to plot against Him. Just as Joseph's brothers schemed against him from a distance, so too do the Pharisees against Jesus. They are never able to close the distance between themselves, the guardians of the Law, and Christ, the fulfillment of that Law. Christ reminds them today that they are only guardians, tenants of a land not theirs. That land and that guardianship can be taken away from them by the owner. They were afraid that if Jesus gained too much popularity, Rome would send its army and destroy Israel, and they would lose the land. They were trying to hang on to their inheritance; but by doing that, they lost it to others. It was never theirs; they were only the tenants. Its produce was not for them but for God, and they had forgotten that.

What God gives to us, both on a grand scale and in small ways, is not for us to cling to and protect from Him. Our part is to tend and nurture, and to return to Him the fruit it yields.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday of 2nd Week

“Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Lazarus, the beggar at the rich man's door in the parable Christ tells, had no man he could trust in. He lay at that door for years; every day in those years, the rich man would walk past him and never lift a finger to help him. It did not necessarily mean, though, that he trusted in God either. Poverty does not mean holiness. It's a ground in which holiness can take root, and that is why we try to strip away some of our luxuries in this season, but it is not in and of itself holiness. Lazarus was holy; and he was comforted for his years of suffering; but he had to make the same choice for God as the rest of Israel had to.

The parable is told as a chiding to the Pharisees, but the rich man does not stand in for them – the five brothers play that role. His brothers, with their own wealth and their own beggars, had all they needed. They had Moses and the prophets; they had all the “Thus says the Lord” of the Old Testament ready to hand. If they did not listen there, they would not listen to someone back from the dead – Marley would find them a tough sell. What's told as a parable here becomes fact later; the Pharisees use the raising of another Lazarus from the dead as a reason to plot against Jesus.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday of 2nd Week

“You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
“We can.”
“My chalice indeed you will drink…”

My chalice – held out to you,
A servant's offering.
My chalice – the wine of Cana,
Abundance of life's joy.
My chalice – of living water,
Flowing for you always.
My chalice – gift of the Father,
For the Son to accept.
My chalice – covenant in my blood,
A ransom for many.
My chalice – soured vinegar,
Strange tasting victory.
My chalice – for you also to drink,
A share in my Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday of 2nd Week

“Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.” God is gently coaxing His beloved, calling Israel to return to Him: it's not a far step from this to “Take my yoke on my shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Our Lord is humble, to the point of accepting the Cross, and He asks that same humility of us. “The greatest among you must be your servant...whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

One aspect of humility is obedience. Obey the rightful authority of the scribes and Pharisees; do as they say, but do not follow their example. Christ Himself obeyed Caiaphas when that one invoked his God-given authority as the Jewish high priest. It's hardly an easy command. It's certainly not all that American, now and today anyway. There are plenty of authorities, even religious ones, who are easily dismissed as “that one”. We all can think of reasons and probably even names. It's probably the least easy of Christ's commands: our first sin, remaining the most deeply rooted, was disobedience. We thought we knew better than God then. Do we claim to know better than Him now, or do we follow in the path He trod?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday of 2nd Week

Both of today's themes are classic for Lent, threads that we pick up time and again in various forms. In the first reading, God is being implored by Daniel to remember His covenant, to hold not the sins of His people against them. They have sinned, but His are compassion and mercy, and Daniel throws himself on those. He has not sinned but the people have, and he speaks for them, taking their place before God. This is what Christ will later do; this is what we do for each other as we go through Lent.

In the Gospel, we have the reverse – God taking the place held by Daniel and the prophets, and speaking to man. All the beauty of Old Testament prophecy - all the promises, all the terrible warnings - is very simply and clearly boiled down. Stop judging, stop condemning, forgive and be merciful as the Father is merciful. What you withhold will be withheld from you. You are to give, and you will receive – not on a one-to-one basis, but many times over. If you've ever measured brown sugar, you know something of the “measuring” Christ speaks of. You don't just scoop it up. You scoop it, press it down with your fingers, scoop and press down more, and more, until you have to slam the measuring cup against the bowl edge to get the packed sugar out. You put in all you can, and then some more. And that is what God turns back to us, from whatever it is we give to Him.

We will meet these themes again and again, and slowly the reality of them will sink in, Lent as a season will unlock itself to us.