• David Knight

Thursday, Week Five of Lent

The Responsorial (Psalm 105) gives one side of the picture: “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.


Genesis 17: 3-9 is a weak promise compared to what Jesus promised those who accept his “New Covenant.” To Abraham God promised human benefits: “I will render you fertile, make nations of you... give to you the land where you are now as a permanent possession.” But Jesus promises us a “posterity” alive with the life of God; and the Kingdom of God as our “permanent possession” for all eternity. Beginning with Mary, who gave flesh to God himself, we will bear spiritual fruit:


Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.


Blessed are we all. Blessed is the fruit of our lives. Like Paul, we are “in the pain of childbirth” until Christ is alive and fully formed in every person. All we help to grow in grace are our “children.”


This is the fruit of discipleship: those who hear the word and accept it” will “bear fruit, 30, 60, 100 times over”:


I chose you... to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last....

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples....


In Baptism we “died to the law” and to every human rule of life, so that “through the body of Christ” we might “belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.” This comes through absorption in:


the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 1


That is just one side of the picture: “On your part,” God asks, “you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” Christian life is a commitment.


In John 8: 51-59 Jesus claims to be divine: “I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be, I AM.” This is the translation of YAHWEH, the self-description God gave when Moses asked him to reveal his “name.” 2


As Christ’s disciples, we study, not just words, but the words of the Word. This makes a difference in our commitment.


We made a covenant at Baptism with the Word of God. It was at the same time a covenant with the words of God: we are committed to seek understanding of the Word through his words. This is a “constitutive element” of being a Christian. To “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind,” we have to use our minds to know him. St. Augustine said, “We cannot love what we do not know.” The conclusion is obvious. We are committed by our baptismal covenant to be “students of the word,” disciples of the Word expressing himself in words. “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.” The question is, “Do we?”


Initiative: Face the Word. Commit to discovering him in his words.

View Today's Readings Here


1 Luke 1:42; Galatians 4:19; Mark 4:20; John 15:8, 16; Romans 7:4; Colossians 1:5-6. 2 Exodus 3:14; see Isaiah 41:4-14 and 43:1-13; John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24-28, 13:19, 18:5-8. “I am he” can also be translated, “I am.”


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  • David Knight

Wednesday, Week Five of Lent


rial (Daniel 3: 52-56) affirms: “Glory and praise forever!

St. Ignatius of Loyola defines “three degrees of humility” — three levels of understanding about ourselves in relationship to God. The first is:


I so subject and humble myself as to obey the law of God in all things, so that not even were I made lord of all creation, or to save my life here on earth, would I consent to violate a commandment... that binds me under pain of mortal sin. 1


Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95 gives an example of three young men who fit that description perfectly.


They were young Jews

of the nobility, young men without any defect, handsome, intelligent and wise, quick to learn.... who were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. After three years’ training they were to enter the king’s service (ch.1:3-5).


Smart politics: integrating the conquered into the culture. They were made administrators of the province of Babylon. But when the king wanted to impose religious uniformity on his kingdom, the three refused to worship his false god. When threatened with death by fire, they replied: “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace... may he save us! But know, O King, that even if he will not, we will not serve your god.”


God did save them, but the point is, being unfaithful to God was for them simply a non-negotiable. Not even to think about. That is the first level of authentic relationship to God.


The three young men learned Chaldean culture but did not abandon their own. They remained uncompromising Jews, faithful to the Covenant. In John 8: 31-42 Jesus argues with others who claim the same thing. He had said, “If you live according to my teaching, you will truly be my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answer, “We are descendants of Abraham. Never have we been slaves to anyone.” But Jesus tells them they are: “Everyone who lives in sin is the slave of sin.” Might that include us?


Many young Catholics, “intelligent and wise, quick to learn....” are selected by our system for four years of higher education, “after which they are to enter the service” of the American dream. With great rewards. They are not asked to kneel before a golden statue. But they may be required to subordinate their values to the god of gold. Or of success. Or corporate power. Or of relativistic philosophy. Or the god of No-god-at-all. In the name of an unavowed religious uniformity, “fitting in” may mean rejecting all religions as divisive. If they refuse, they will be “burned.” If they accept, they may not even know they have.


Jesus gives four “if’s’” to help us know if we are free: “If you live according to my teaching...” “If the Son frees you” (through personal interaction with him). “If you are Abraham’s children”: faithful to your heritage, e.g. still going to Mass... “If God is your Father,” not just your Creator and Judge. Four benchmarks.


Initiative: Make fidelity non-negotiable. Refuse slavery. Identify false gods.

67.


View Today's Readings Here


1 Spiritual Exercises, no. 165.


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  • Father David M. Knight

Tuesday, Week Five of Lent

The Responsorial (Psalm 102) tells us what to say when we are just tired of following Christ: “O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.”

In Numbers 21: 4-9 the people were tired of following Moses through the desert. They “complained against God” because food and drink were scarce in the desert, and what they got didn’t satisfy them: “We are disgusted with this wretched food.”

We may not have traveled in the desert. But if we have been disciples for very long in the true sense — “students” of God’s mind and heart through reading and meditation — we know what it is to be “dry.” There are times when reading God’s word is like eating sawdust without salt. And times when any religious act, from devotions to Eucharist, just makes us “disgusted.”

Sometimes it is not that bad. But we are just bored and tired of “putting in the time” on whatever our spiritual “fitness program” is. That is when we pass or fail to pass the test. (Actually, most of us fail it many times, but God keeps giving us retakes).

God doesn’t send serpents to afflict us. He doesn’t have to. Once we have begun to “seek the face of God,” if we stop seeking it we feel the difference. We may not fall back into previous sins (or we may), but we will live with the sense that something is lacking in our lives. We will keep getting little bites until we either “die” by giving up entirely, or learn to turn to God: “O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.”

When we know we can’t persevere just by will power (although sometimes it will feel like that’s all we’ve got), God will give us help that lets us appreciate everything we do as a gift of God.

John 8: 21-30 explains that the “bronze serpent” is the symbol of Jesus on the cross. It teaches us discipleship is not just a human exercise. The Liturgy of the Word leads us to what we celebrate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist: the mystery of dying and rising in Christ.

Jesus said the problem with being Christian is: “You belong to what is below — this world. I belong to what is above.” Jesus is divine; he is God. But it took his dying and rising to reveal it: “When you lift up the Son of Man you will come to realize that I AM.”

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up (John 3:14).

To be Christian is to “become Christ.” We can only do this by looking to Jesus “lifted up” on the cross and letting ourselves be lifted up with him by incorporation into his body at Baptism. By this we die in him and rise to live as his own human-divine body on earth. We are disciples to learn how to do this.

But living as Christ can only be learned by surrender to letting Jesus act with us, in us and through us. When we can do no more, we look to him in whom we are and pray, “O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Do what I am doing with me, in me and through me.”

Initiative: Say the WIT prayer. Persevere in human efforts to be divine.

View Today's Readings Here


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