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Friday, March 18, 2011

Overview and Themes in the Readings of Lent

This blog has been for the most part focused on digging deeper into scripture, yet on occasion we step back and look at the big picture. Today, let’s look at the big picture of the important readings that we will hear during Lent.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, Joel 2calls us to Fast so that “the LORD will be stirred to concern for his land
and take pity on his people.
Why do these things? The Psalm 51 asks Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
St. Paul says We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made [Jesus] to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him… And not to receive the grace of God in vain.
Jesus then in Matthew 6 calls us again to Pray, Fast and Give Alms.

The first Sunday of Lent’s readings from Genesis chapters 2 and 3 tell us of our origins, “The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.” God had given us His Holy Spirit.
Yet, our Parents tempted through the Devil saw that “the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.” They ate and lost the Holy Spirit and fellowship with God
Again Psalm 51 asks Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
St. Paul then reminds us “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.
In the Gospel, we find Jesus the New Adam according to St. Paul, not in a Paradise, but in a desert. He is not feasting, but fasting. The devil confronts Him there with the same threefold temptation that he tempted our parents with; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Jesus, our new Adam, is victorious.

The second Sunday of Lent’s readings are from Genesis chapter 12. We meet Abram, who is told by God to come out of where you live to a New Land that I will show you and I will bless you. He obeys.
Psalm 33 asks the Lord “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” We are called to trust the Lord like Abraham to go to this new Land where God is leading us.
St. Paul tells Timothy “He saved us and called us to a holy life” Holy means set apart. We are no longer supposed to live for this place , but for a New Place like Abram.
The Gospel then shows us Jesus on top of the mountain transfigured talking with Moses and Elijah. Why these two men, what did they talk about? St. Luke tells us in his Gospel.
Luke 9:31 [they] spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
This is the theme of Lent, the Exodus. Moses was a part of the first Exodus and Elijah, represents the prophets, calling us to the New Exodus that Jesus was going to accomplish at His death and this is the entire theme of this Sunday’s readings and Lent. We, like Abram and the Israelites, are called from how we live, to die with Christ and live a new and holy life as we travel to the heavenly promised land.

The third Sunday of Lent’s readings begin, now of course, in Exodus. The people get thirsty, but God tells Moses to “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Now Psalm 95 harkens back to this event. Keep in mind that the people didn’t want to leave Egypt because this road to the promised land was hard. Here are parts of the Psalm: Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence (this answers the questions from earlier. Yes, he is in our(their) midst.) with thanksgiving;… Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.”
St. Paul speaks to the Romans about faith, hope and charity. The three things despaired of in the garden, and in the wilderness with Israel, but proven by Christ in the desert. St. Paul says that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Jesus as the water poured out of the rock, so the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts. This leads us to the Gospel.”
Continuing on with this theme in the Gospel of John, Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman and says to her “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”… “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This water is the Holy Spirit that has been poured into our hearts from Christ who, like the rock in the Desert was struck, and out came water and blood. It is the Holy Spirit that satisfies our thirst.

The fourth Sunday of Lent’s readings begin linking the Exodus theme from the Old Testament and then tying it to the New Exodus of Christ, namely His Death and Resurrection.
1Samuel talks about the anointing of David as young man and how David is ultimately taken from the fields of Israel as a shepherd and made by the grace and Holy Spirit of God, king over God’s people.
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
In the Psalm 23 brings to mind many of the themes we have heard thus far: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. There is the water theme again.
St. Paul then tells the Ephesians: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Harkening back to the psalm we just heard how God “leads us through the valley of death.”
The Gospel of John continues with St. Paul’s theme about light and darkness. We, like the man, were born blind spiritually, it wasn’t until Christ came and opened our eyes to the light that we can now see. Jesus says “Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The fifth Sunday of Lent’s readings begin with Ezekiel proclaiming that I will open your graves and have you rise from them, I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land.” This points us to the Resurrection.
Psalm 130 reminds us that “The Lord will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.” This points us to the cross.
St. Paul tells the Romans “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” See through the Death and Resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit has been restored now. We can go back to Eden.
The Gospel again brings us to John and the resurrection of Lazarus which prefigures Jesus’ own Resurrection from the dead.

So, Jesus is inaugurating a New Passover, a New Exodus, from death to Life, from in to Salvation. He is restoring the Holy Spirit that our Parents lost, so to bring us to the New Promised Land of Heaven.

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