March 7, 2017
Tuesday, Lent Week One
The Responsorial (Psalm 34) assures us: “From all their afflictions, God will deliver the just.”
Isaiah 55: 10-11 tells us how he does it: God saves us through his “word”: “It will not return to me void, but shall... achieve the end for which I sent it.”
This is not just God’s creative word. He compares it to the “rain and snow” that “water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful.” That is what God’s word does for us. It makes us fertile in life-giving ideas and fruitful in the lives we lead and help others to lead. We need to take in God’s word the way we take in food and water. If we do, “From all their afflictions, God will deliver the just.”
The Responsorial Psalm emphasizes two kinds of prayer that “deliver” us. The first is the prayer that the Liturgy of the Word encourages: meditation, “faith seeking understanding” through reflection: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Jesus said, “Seek and you will find. knock, and the door will be opened for you.” He also said, “If you remain in my word, [immersed in it, absorbed in trying to learn and live it] you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Free from destructive errors and distortions; free from fears and anxieties. Prayer helps us see God and the world in perspective. In that view, God reigns supreme and there is no room for fear. “From all their afflictions, God will deliver the just.”
Matthew 6: 7-15 teaches us a second way to pray: the way Jesus taught his disciples: The “Our Father” is “petitionary prayer,” but it is also instructive. It makes a list of Jesus’ own priorities and tells us to adopt them as our own. If we pray for these petitions above all others, thinking about what we are saying, we will grow into union with the mind and heart of Christ. This is also a prayer of discipleship.
Every petition in the Our Father is asking for Christ’s triumph, which will be complete at the end of the world. What is delaying it? If God’s word “will not return void, but shall achieve the end for which he sent it,” why is the Kingdom not yet established?
The answer is simple: there are not enough disciples on earth who are truly immersed in his word — enough to understand and live it. We tend to settle for keeping the laws, without learning where they come from or where they intend to lead us. Even some teachers in the Church just learn doctrines and laws, without seeking deep understanding of the mind and heart of God from whence they came, and pass shallow understanding on to others.” Jesus calls them the blind leading the blind. There is no substitute for deep, personal discipleship.
Initiative: Be a disciple. Ask where every law comes from and where it leads.
 Psalm 34:4; Matthew 7:7; John 8:31-32.
 Luke 11:1.
 See last year’s reflection on this reading and “The Pater Noster As An Eschatological Prayer” in Raymond E. Brown, S.S., New Testament Essays, Bruce, 1965; Doubleday, Image Books, 1968.
See Matthew 15:12-14.