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Lectionary 230 and 26

February 27, 2015


Lectionary 230. Scripture: Feb. 28th.  Deuteronomy 26:16-19.  Psalm 119:1.2.4-5, 7-8.  Matthew 5:43-48:

Tough task today!  How are we to live up to what the Scriptures say about who we are in relationship to what God is telling us to be and to do.  The selection from Matthew is “You are to be as perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect!”  Last week we learned from Leviticus that God is most holy and we are called to be like God in holiness!  Then Luke seems to soften these two, but may be giving us the most demanding invitation: “To be compassionate as your Father in heaven is.” I    reflected on three words that came to me while thinking about the Scriptures today”: Holy, Perfect, and Compassionate. Somehow I believe they are calling us to the same Lenten message God is giving us in these three distinct passages.

In Leviticus we are called to be holy for God is holy.  I remembered how Vatican II has a special chapter dedicated to the “Universal Call to Holiness” in the Constitution on the Church.  All of us are called to be holy.  Under the verse : “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy’, the Jewish commentary in Etz Hayim points out that the call to holiness is given in the plural.   It states, “…the capacity for holiness is not restricted to spiritually gifted people; anyone may attain holiness. God does not demand the impossible.  The plural phrasing suggests further that holiness is most easily achieved in the context of a community. It is difficult for a person to live a life of holiness without others.” (p.693).

The words of Jesus, “You must be perfected as your Heavenly Father is perfect”, The word “telios” is used for the Hebrew word “tam” and means the wholesomeness of God.  We are being called to be integrated and to do that we need to be in touch with others and concerned about them.  Daniel Harrington, S.J. refers to the thought about God “whose wholeness is God’s care for all people.”  We are to care for one another and thus achieve the end(telios) for which we were created.  This perfection is the goal and it takes a lifetime to achieve who we are really called to be by God.

Luke’s narration has Jesus telling us to “be merciful (compassionate) even as your Father is merciful (compassionate). (Luke 6:36).  Luke Timothy Johnson interprets this summons of God in the following way:  “He (Jesus) issued a radical commandment of love as a norm for the restored people of God.  He concluded by stating that the measure for human relationships is God’s graciousness shown toward all. Christians are to become compassionate just as God is compassionate.”

We may favor Luke’s words of Jesus but this may really be more difficult than that of Leviticus and Matthew.   We need to go beyond ourselves and our needs and wants to be compassionate.  In further reflection, I realized that the three are one and that they help us define the words by looking at all three.  The mystery of my belief in the Trinity helped me to see that the love of God (Father) and Jesus (Son) is accomplished through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit between them in a love relationship.  Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier also came to mind as I meditated on the passages individually and then together as one explaining the others when contemplated.  Amen.



Lectionary 26. Scripture for Second Sunday in Lent, March 1.  Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18:

Abraham is said to have been tested to sacrifice his son Isaac who was the promised one to carry on God’s people.  The words are interpreted to be a test not a temptation.  We know the full story how an angel prevents Abraham from sacrificing his only hope for the future, Isaac.  Abraham had passed the test.  His openness to God on this test is a mystery to us, which we try to understand but cannot.  Why would God even think of such a test?  Or why would Abraham think God was asking this of him?  The scene disturbs us very much and all the moreso if we were a Jewish father who has an only son.

In Hebrew, the word used for this event in the life of Abraham is called AKEDAH, that is, the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19).  “The narrative of the binding and near sacrifice of Isaac, the Akedah, is an unforgettably harrowing story that defies easy interpretation.  God commands Abraham to sacrifice the child born to him after so many years of longing.  Is this a test of Abraham’s faith and readiness to obey, as the opening verse suggests? Is it a protest against the widely observed ancient practice of sacrificing firstborn children as the firstborn of the flocks was sacrificed? Is it to teach us  that, for the believer, the voice of God must override the voice of human conscience—what Kierkegaard called the teleological suspension of the ethical’? “ (Etz Hayim , p.117).  We as readers are helped through this difficult ordeal by the words God put Abraham to the test.”This information is divulged to the reader, although not to Abraham, to remove any possible misunderstanding on the reader’s part that God requires human sacrifice.” ( Etz Hayim, p. 118).

In the Gospel we meditate on the Transfiguration of Jesus according to its most original text Mark 9:2-10.  There are parallels to it in Matthew and Luke and possibly a hidden reference to it in John 12:27-36).  The last writing of the New Testament is that of II Peter (after the year 110 A.D.) and it refers to the Transfiguration with a tradition assigned to Peter.  This reference is given here to help us reflect on Mark’s passage, the earliest, with the latest or last thought given to this event in the life of Peter:  “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” (II Peter 1:17-18).

How do we relate this event to the Akedah or the sacrifice of Abraham on Mount Moriah?  It seems to me, this is the way Jesus prepared his most intimate friends, Peter, James and John for the test they would undergo when Jesus would be led to the Cross shortly after his entrance with them into Jerusalem.  There he would be sacrificed that is carried through to his death.  In Christian tradition Isaac has been and still is seen as a type of Christ in his willingness to do whatever his father asked him.  The disciples were just as baffled and probably frightened at the thought of his being put to death by crucifixion by the Romans.  Their entire hope for the kingdom as they saw it rested on his being their leader, their king, and their messiah.  The ecstatic moments they enjoyed on Mount Tabor with Jesus were meant as a preparation for them to pass the test.  But they did not until the Resurrection of Jesus helped them recall the meaning meant for them at the Transfiguration.

“And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2: 7-8).  Amen.


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