Father David's Reflection for Third Thursday of Lent
The Responsorial Psalm is an unexpected response to the first reading. It urges us: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Psalm 95).
But in the first reading, God tells Jeremiah (7: 23-28) that when he commanded his people, "Listen to my voice. they obeyed not." Nor did they listen to the prophets. And he warns Jeremiah, "When you speak. they will not listen to you either!"
God is painting a pretty dim picture of his people at that time. And we might think in our discouraged moments that it is a credible description of people in our times!
So it is deliberate optimism when the Responsorial Psalm encourages us: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." But this optimism is the whole point. God never gives up on us, and we should never give up on ourselves or on one another. The reason for optimism is that we don't have only ourselves to rely on. Our hopes rest on what God can do to bring us to life in response to his word. If God hasn't given up, optimism is the only stance that makes sense.
Luke 11: 14-23 shows Jesus driving out a demon who was making a man unable to speak. There is an intentional symbolism here. Physically, being deaf and mute often go together: it is difficult for one who cannot hear sounds to speak clearly. In the spiritual life, what makes us unable to respond to God is the simple fact that we haven't really heard God - because we are not listening with desire to hear. "For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing. so that they might not. listen with their ears, and under- stand with their heart and convert -- and I would heal them" (Matthew 13:15).
But Jesus can heal us. He does it by freeing us from the "demon," from what- ever force of evil or sin is closing our hearts and ears to him. He has the strength to do this. He can free us from anything that binds us.
There is a condition, however. We have to "gather" with Jesus. If not, we will be scattered like sheep attacked by wolves. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." No one can be "neutral" toward Jesus. Not to belong to him is to oppose him, because if we don't gather with him we will inevitably be swept off course by the currents of false- hood, fear, 18:2; 40:2; 62:2; Matthew 7:21- 27). "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts".
Initiative: Be a disciple. Listen to God's word with alert faith and conscious hope.