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  • Father David M. Knight

March 29, 2017

Wednesday, Lent Week Four

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The Responsorial (Psalm 145) reminds us that "the Lord is kind and merciful." In contrast, “Phariseeism” is legalism: a focus on rules with desire to enforce them for others. It is never joyful, never nurturing, never loving. There is always underlying anger in it. And unconscious resentment, which surfaces in anger against those who are not rule-bound. — Paul fought the “false believers” who “slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us.”[1]

Phariseeism feeds on fear. And a sense of rejection. And unacknowledged anger at abandonment. We don’t say, but we feel, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Without the intimacy of personal interaction with God, we fall back on the impersonal relationship of rules. We will “save ourselves” without his help. We will keep the rules so strictly that our “righteousness” will be our refuge.

Isaiah 49: 8-15 counters this by describing God’s closeness and saving love. “In a time of favor I answer you... I help you.” God addresses those whose sense of isolation from him has locked them into the defensive posture of legalism: “Saying to the prisoners: ‘Come out!’... For he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” Stop focusing on rules. Drink from the spring of God’s own heart, revealed in his words. Read. Meditate. Pray. Don’t be so afraid. Your fear of sin, in the absence of reliance on God, drives you into the fortress-prison of rigid self-discipline. God will “cut a road” through all that blocks you from him. He has not abandoned you.

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

In John 5: 17-30 Jesus defends his own freedom against those who persecuted him for healing on the Sabbath. He claims to be acting by a higher law: the law of union, of shared life with the Father who acts with him, in him and through him: “The Son cannot do anything by himself... only what he sees the Father doing”— and doing in him.

More: “Just as the Father possesses life in himself, so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself.” And Jesus can share this life with humans: “The Son grants life to whom he wishes.... The one who hears my word... possesses eternal life.”

The prophets claim to act by the Light and Life of God within them. They can be deceived. But the worst deception is to deny the prophetic gift entirely and trust in nothing but slavish obedience to laws. This is to deny the faith. By Baptism we share in the life of God. We are anointed, consecrated by God as “priests, prophets and kings” (responsible stewards of his kingship). The fear that denies freedom to let Christ act with us, in us and through us is darkness overshadowing faith.

Initiative: Be what you are: alive with the life of God. Act in union with God.

[1] Galatians 2:4.



March 28, 2017

Tuesday, Lent Week Four

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The Responsorial (Psalm 46) tells us to trust. “The mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Ezekiel 47: 1-12 is about water, a symbol of the life God gives in Baptism. All who have this life within them should be sources of life for others: “Wherever the river flows, every living creature that can

multiply shall live.”

Picture it: a clean, flowing river. On both banks, green plants, flowers, crops and trees. This is the way the world should look, wherever Christians are. At least to those who have eyes to see the Life he gives. “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

Jesus used this same image with the woman of Samaria: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Later he said: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Those who receive life are to give life.

John continues: “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive.” Jesus had said, “It is the spirit that gives life... The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”[1]

The “daily way” to receive and increase God’s life within us — and transmit it to others — is to read God’s words, praying for enlightenment by his Holy Spirit. To do this regularly is to be a disciple. In every Mass the Liturgy of the Word reminds and calls us to this. What this reading does is give us motivation: by opening ourselves to the “water of life” by reflecting on God’s words, we will become fountains of life for others. Is that worth investing time in?

John 5: 1-16 ends with sobering statement: “It was because Jesus did things such things on the Sabbath that they began to persecute him.” We want to scream: “What things? Healing a sick man? Anyone who would persecute a person for that is the one who is sick!”

But it happens every day. Who within the Church gets persecuted the most by others in the Church, laity as well as officials? Isn’t it the “prophets” — those who upset complacency by acting or speaking in a way that calls our assumptions into question?

What did you think of yesterday’s reflection? “It was bad, dangerous! It said it’s okay to miss Mass on Sunday!”

Is that all you saw? Or did you see God as a wise, loving Father who will dispense with a rule at times to help someone love the Mass and him more? Any priest can dispense from Mass for a good reason. Do we need an authority to make that judgment for us? Or can we look at God’s heart and make it for ourselves? The answer to that question is the “litmus test” of Phariseeism.

If the comfortable are afflicted by what comforts the afflicted, they have a problem. It is probably fear of human freedom exercised in decisions.

Initiative: Remember: “The mighty Lord is with us.” Trust him to lead.

[1] John 4:10, 6:63, 7:37-39; 15:16.



March 27, 2017

Monday, Lent Week Four

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The Responsorial (Psalm 30) is an acknowledgement each one of us needs to make. Frequently.

What kind of God comes through in Isaiah 65: 17-21?

Lo, I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth.... There shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create. For I create Jerusalem [read “the Church”] to be a joy, and its people to be a delight.

Larry, a Baptist minister, told at a dinner party how his loving wife was the one who kept order in the family. She got their daughter Jane off to school, regulated the TV, and kept the candy down. But Larry didn’t conform: “I just gave Jane everything she wanted.”

One morning, when his wife left for a trip, Jane said, “I don’t want to go to school today.” “Great,” Larry laughed, “Let’s take a holiday!” The other mothers at table all looked horrified as he told how they just stayed home for the rest of the week. Watched television. Ate junk food. Had a ball.

Before his wife’s return Larry suggested to Jane, “You know, there are some things mommy doesn’t need to hear.”

Isn’t the Church like a mother to us? Loving, but conscientious. Mothers set the rules. They keep family life ordered. That is their job. It is necessary. But it isn’t the whole picture.

Can you see God the Father acting like this Baptism minister? One Sunday you wake up, see glorious weather outside, and say to the Father, “I don’t want to go to Mass today.” Can you imagine God the Father laughing and saying, “Fine! Let’s take a holiday!” And making sure you have one of the most enjoyable days of your life?

Do you see disapproving glances among those who read this? But wouldn’t you guess Jane did not follow the rebellious “minister’s daughter syndrome” when she became adult? Wouldn’t you bet she is still going to church?

Please don’t tell anybody you read this. There are some things everybody doesn’t need to hear!

How does Jesus come through in John 4:43-54? According to the “rules” the official didn’t qualify for a miracle. Jesus’ standard remark to those he cured was: “Your faith has made you well.... According to your faith let it be done to you.” Jesus reproached the official for lacking it: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you do not believe.”

But the official saw more in Jesus than one who lived by rules, even his own! He appealed directly to Christ’s heart, the law of all laws, love that gives life: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said, “Return home. Your son will live.” Then he believed. In Christ’s love.

The man believes “the word spoken to him.” ...He had [not] acquired perfect faith, but it was a beginning..... The cure appears to be not so much the cause of the man’s faith [as] its consequence; signs and faith in the word go together. [1]

Love won his faith. Hearing God’s word with faith in his love is discipleship.

Initiative: Obey the rules, but... interpret them according to the Father’s heart.

[1] See Matthew 9:22.29; 17:20; 21:21-22; John 10:10; 21:15-18; Jerome Biblical Commentary.


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