Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday of the Third Week in Lent

Jeremiah 7:1-7 / Luke 4:38-44

We want and expect the most crucial aspects of life always to be available. We trust that, apart from cloudy days, the sun will shine and warm us. If we live in a modernized society, we imagine that light switches will work, that electrical outlets will power our tools, that water we use for drinking or washing will be clean and safe. So long as disaster has not taken hold of us, we do not worry whether food will be on the shelves at the supermarket, however much we may fret over the money in our accounts. In short, the basics of life, that without which will necessarily compromise human dignity, we rely on being and remaining present for our use, whether we attend to it or not.

In this we are, of course, deceived, and much of what is crucial to our lives is not, simply by its nature, always and easily to be had. This deception about our earthly and bodily needs is also likely to bleed over into spiritual presumption. We can think that God will always be with us in reliable and predictable ways, like water from the tap or light from a lamp. However, we have been warned through the prophet Jeremiah — Trust not in lying words, saying: The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, it is the temple of the Lord. The presence of the Lord with he people, he reminds us, depends greatly on Israel's response, that it order well its ways and its doings. As the Lord promises, if his people should treat their neighbors with justice and reject false worship, and only then, will God dwell with them in their land.

Jesus likewise must warn the people in Galilee. Hearing of his cure of Simon's mother-in-law, starting even at sunset, the people came in throngs seeking cures from the divers diseases which afflicted them and the devils that had invaded their lives. Having Jesus with them was a great boon, a sign that God was indeed in their midst, and they did not want to see that it should come to an end. How could it? How could God, who loved them so, allow Jesus to depart from them, and with him their access to his healing touch. And when it was day, going out He went into a desert place: and the multitudes sought Him, and came unto Him: and they stayed Him that He should not depart from them. To whom He said: To other cities also I must preach the kingdom of God: for therefore am I sent.

In all of this, we can of course be sure that none whom God wills to come to him, none of his elect chosen from before the foundation of the world, will be lost, and no good which God wills to come to us will fail to do so. It is not as though our waywardness can or will thwart the hidden and everlasting counsels of the Almighty. Nonetheless, neither must we organize our lives as though the consolations we have received from Jesus Christ, the healings or providentially and abundantly answered prayers, are themselves that for which he has come into our lives. God dwelled in his temple, and the Word was made flesh, not to meet our expectations, but rather to transform us to be one in him.

That he might do so through healing or deliverance from an affliction is certainly possible. That everyone who has been consoled will always have the same consolation on demand is, however, to be denied. Even more to be warned against is the presumption that, having received once the conversion of heart to receive the Gospel, having been made a temple of the Holy Spirit, we can proclaim of ourselves, regardless of our love of God and neighbor: The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, it is the temple of the Lord. God is here to save, to build up his kingdom, and that the kingdom will come we need have no fear or doubt. Can we trust, when our consolations cease, that as we remain true to him and his Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ will abide with us from the beginning and for evermore?

May Thy heavenly mercy increase the number of Thy people who serve Thee, O Lord, we beseech Thee: and make them ever obedient to Thy commandments.

No comments: