Daily Readings for 3/16/09

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Reflection on the Daily Readings for 3/16/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM

Today’s Readings

Scripture: Mon. of 3rd week in Lent.  II Kings 5:1-15. Psalm 42:2.3.
43:3.4. Luke 4:24-30. Lectionary # 238:

Jesus recalls to the listeners the great healing prophets of Elijah
and Elisha.  Like many of the prophets, Jesus is aware that he too is
rejected and not listened to.  In sensing this non acceptance, He says, “No
prophet gains acceptance in his native place.” The assembly is insensed at
this and his recalling the healings and powers of Elijah and Elisha even
for foreigners. They drive him out of the synagogue and attempt to hurl him
over a cliff near Nazareth, his home town. Jesus, however, passes through
the midst of them unharmed.

This scene harkens back to the reading we have today from II Kings
where we learn that Naaman, a Syrian military commander, is afflicted with
a skin disease similar to leprosy.  Through the suggestion and mediation of
a young slave girl from Israel, Naaman sets forth to meet Elisha with hope
of being healed.  When he is asked to bathe in the lowly waters of the
Jordan River which in no way is similar to the fast flowing wide rivers of
Syria, he balks and pouts.  However, through more pleading on the part of
people with faith, he finally submits to the suggestion and bathes seven
times in the Jordan. He is healed and his skin is as that of a baby! This
helps Naaman to reflect and realize that “there is no God in all the earth,
except in Israel.”  This story points out many interesting things, for
example, the power of intercession and mediation on the part of the girl
from Israel, the helping of a Gentile, and the fact that prophets who are
God’s prophets are to be listened to. The Gentiles, too, are chosen by God
to be among the elect.  We realize too that some prophets like Elijah and
Elisha not only speak for God but do miraculous healings in the Name of
God.

Psalm 42 and 43 form a unit of prayer and they express our own
yearning for the healing power of God to touch our lives during this season
of Lent. We too are called to mediate and intercede for our brothers and
sisters who are in need.  We can imitate the young slave girl from Israel
in having great confidence that our God can do such things for us as were
done for the commander Naaman and for the widow from Zarephath near Sidon.
Amen.

Scripture: Tuesday of 3rd week of Lent.  Daniel 3:25, 34-43. Psalm 25:
4-5,6-7,8-9. Matthew 18:21-35. Lectionary # 239:
Matthew is a tax-collector in this Gospel and as spring approaches
many are involved in paying their taxes or sending in their tax papers.
This ordeal is certainly a great form of penance for most people. It costs
them time, money, anxiety, and frustration.  Only the context of living
within the spiritual realm can we understand this form of penance.  We
learn from the parable that Jesus gives personally to Peter.  The leader of
his group of twelve is apparently frustrated not with taxes but with
whether he should always forgive his fellow sisters and brothers many of
them are also following Jesus.  “How often should they be forgiven? Jesus
says seventy-times seven, not merely seven times.  Now can you recall that
you ever had to forgive that many times?  So there is a lesson here.  The
parable shows that the unjust steward has been forgiven everything he owes
to the landlord.  It may have been quite an amount.  But he does not learn
from the forgiveness given to him and ruthlessly exacts payment from
another fellow worker.  It is the height of injustice and selfishness.
Surely we get the message and want to do what Jesus is asking of us even
though we will never reach the number that he gives Peter.  Numbers in the
Bible are often more symbolic than real.

The Gospels are not about paying taxes.  They are more about helping
us to have right relationships with one another, with God, and with
ourselves.  Our Lenten journey enables us to give some thought to the words
and parable Jesus gives us for our own good.  We are to have wholesome and
healthy positive attitudes about our being Christian.  Our own interior
life should be witnessed to by our words and actions.  Lent offers us an
opportunity for doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  We will
know how to put them in the context of our lives by carefully reading and
meditating on the Sermon on the Mount where they are spelled out in
chapters 5-7 in Matthew.  These chapters are the litmus test for whether we
are living the life of a disciple of Jesus; the life of a Christian in
today’s society.  We can evaluate how well our Lent is going by rereading
this blueprint and magna carta of the Christian life.  Amen.

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