February 29, 2016

Feb. 29

February 29, 2016:  Monday, 3rd week, Lent

  • 'Crown' tie bar:  Kings of Aram and Israel (1st reading)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  “I thought Elisha would move his hand and cure the leprosy" (1st reading)
  • Silver and gold-colored accessories:  Naaman set out with silver and gold... (1st reading)
  • Blue shirt:  Naaman washed in the Jordan (1st reading)
  • 'Letters' tie:  ...the king's letter,... (1st reading)
  • 'Horse' tie pin:  ...and his horses (1st reading)
  • 'Deer' tie pin:  As the deer longs... (psalm)
  • 'Car' tie pin:  Synagogue folk 'drove' Jesus out of town (gospel)
  • Purple suspenders:  Lenten season
For the psalm

Leper Naaman the Syrian asked Elisha to heal him but couldn't appreciate the simple way the healing would be accomplished.  The inhabitants of Nazareth felt disdain at Jesus' words; it wasn't how they thought salvation should be.
Jesus felt the contempt of the law doctors who sought salvation in a multitude of precepts, but the people didn't have faith in them, or in the Sadducees who sought salvation in compromises with the Empire.  One group sought salvation from clerical parties, the other from political, but the people believed Jesus, not them.  Why this contempt?  Because we think salvation should come from something great; only the powerful, those with strength, money, or power, can save us.  They felt contempt because they couldn't understand salvation only comes from small things.  When Jesus proposed the way of salvation, he spoke of little things.  In the Beatitudes and about the final judgment, Jesus says, “Come with me because you've done these simple things.  You didn't seek salvation or hope in power, political parties, or negotiations; you just did these things.  So many look down on this!  Read the Beatitudes and Mt 25, and think and see whether there's something I look down on, something that disturbs my peace.  Contempt is a luxury only the vain and the proud allow themselves.  "Blessed are those who are not scandalized in me," who don't look down on these things, who don't feel contempt.  Seek grace to understand the only path of salvation is ‘the folly of the Cross,’ that is, the Son of God ‘emptying himself,’ making himself small, represented here in the cleansing in the Jordan, or in the small village of Nazareth.  Today's key word:  disdain
Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Lenten sermon
A God who speaks
God speaks; idols don't.  God's speech, unlike ours, is for the heart:  “I'll put my law within them; I'll write it on their hearts.”  God's mouth is the prophet, his breath the Holy Spirit, though in some cases (Jesus' baptism and transfiguration), there was also an external voice.  But we receive a message that can be translated into words; God’s speaking is so vivid that prophets recall where and when a word came (Is 6:1; Ez 1:1; Hg 1:1).  God’s word is so concrete, it “falls” on Israel as a stone.  Its concreteness is also expressed by the symbol of bread eaten with delight (Jer 15:16; Ez 3:1-3).
No voice can reach us as deeply as God's word, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the heart's thoughts.”  God’s speech is like powerful thunder, or a gentle whisper; it knows the tonalities of our speech.  But with the coming of Christ, God now speaks with a human voice audible to human ears.  What was heard was the word of God because the speaker is Christ, Son of God, in whom God no longer speaks through an intermediary but in a person.  No longer “thus says the Lord” but “I say to you....”
God’s speech, mediated and direct, was put into writing, so now we now have “Scripture.”  Augustine defines a sacrament as “a visible word”; we can define the word as “a heard sacrament.”  Every sacrament has a visible sign and an invisible reality, grace.  The words we read in the Bible is a physical sign like water in baptism or bread in the Eucharist, but once faith and the Spirit enter in, we enter into contact through these signs with God's living truth and will, and we hear the voice of Christ.  “The body of Christ is just as truly present in the [Eucharist] as the truth of Christ is in his gospel preaching.  In the Eucharist, the species we see are signs, but what is enclosed in them is the body of Christ; in Scripture the words we hear are signs, but the thoughts they carry are the truth of the Son of God.” (Bossuet)
The Word of God at times works beyond our comprehension, almost by itself—ex opere operato, just as we say about sacraments.  There are books more edifying than some biblical books, but none operate like them.  At the height of Augustine's battle for chastity, he read, “Conduct yourself becomingly as in the day, not in reveling, drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling, or jealousy.” He writes, “No further wished I to read, nor was there need to.  Instantly, in truth, at the end of this sentence, as if before a peaceful light streaming into my heart, the shadows of doubt fled" (Confessions) (to be continued)
    • 2 Kgs 5:1-15ab  Leper Naaman set out with gifts and Aram's king's letter to Israel's king to be cured.  Elisha heard; Naaman went to him who asked him to wash in the Jordan, then left angry, but Naaman's servants urged him to wash, and he became clean.  To Elisha:  “Now I know there's no God except in Israel.”
    • Ps 42:2-3; 43:3-4  "Athirst is my soul for the living God.  When shall I go and behold the face of God?" I long for you as the deer for water.  Your light and fidelity shall lead me to your dwelling place; I'll enter and thank you.
    • Lk 4:24-30  Jesus:  "No prophet is accepted in his own place:  Elijah was sent to a widow outside Israel, and Elisha cleansed Syrian Naaman, not Israel's lepers."  In fury they led him to a hill to hurl him down, but he escaped.
      • Creighton:  Jesus infuriates a crowd that had spoken highly of him” and was amazed at his gracious words?  It's easy to betray smug condescension toward Jesus’ townspeople, but ask yourself how US congregations would react if we substituted 'America' for 'Israel' in the gospel.  It's hard to overcome prejudice; note the fundamental insider/outsider tension in Scripture.  Remember our outsiders are often God's insiders....
      • One Bread, One Body:  "The voice of reason":  Naaman's humble servants pleaded and reasoned with him.  Where was the voice of reason to calm the crowd in the Nazareth synagogue?  The disciples and Peter corrected the Sanhedrin. A crowd in Ephesus wanted to kill Paul, but the town clerk reasoned with them and dissuaded them.  An angry crowd planned to kill innocent Susanna because of false testimony , but Daniel reasoned with and calmed the crowd and freed her.  In each case, the voice of reason belonged to a member of the crowd.  Some people like Pharaoh are so stubborn that reason won't persuade them.  Tell people what God commands....
      • Passionist:  Do I hear the Word of God as always comforting or do I sometimes find it upsetting?  If I'm completely at ease in my version of Christianity, I’m probably worshiping a false god.  A prophet may not be accepted in his home town....
      • DailyScripture.net:  "Jesus' power to heal and cleanse":  Jesus praised individuals who put their faith in God, including outsiders (non-Jews and pagans)  such as Naaman.  Ephrem the Syrian tells us that Naaman's miraculous healing prefigures the healing Jesus granted to all through baptism and renewal in the Spirit.  The Lord wants to renew our faith and baptism.  Jesus confronted his townspeople with their indifference and unbelief, rebuking them and complimenting Gentiles who showed more faith.  His praise for "outsiders" offended his people because they were blind to God's plan to redeem all nations.  We all need God's grace and mercy....

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