28Mar Thursday of Week 3 of Lent

Helping the needy and the stranger should become second nature to us. Then we will be acting with the agency of God…

1st Reading: Jeremiah 7:23-28

Life’s highest goal is obedient response to God

This command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.

From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them: “This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.”

Responsorial: Psalm 95

Response: If today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him. (R./)

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the Lord who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. (R./)

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. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:14-23

Healings proved that Jesus acts with the authority of God

Jesus was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? ? for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever oes not gather with me scatters.


Seeking what is right

Qualities like compassion, forgiveness, loyalty and loving affection, makes the difference between life and death, in the spiritual sense. Jeremiah links this kind of behaviour with remaining in God’s favour. “Only if you reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbour, if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood, or follow strange gods to your own harm will I [your God] remain with you.” Jesus invites us to reflect on whether something is truly right or wrong. To his detractors he says: ‘If I have done a good thing, how can you think I acted with an evil spirit? If I show mercy to a mute person, do not accuse me of sin!’

Jeremiah and Jesus are not so different as much as we might suppose. We must not be stiff-necked, but faithful, by listening and responding to the promptings of God. Jeremiah calls us above all to faithfulness to what you are supposed to be! He calls for fidelity in our relationship with God and with our neighbours, even the refugees in our midst. Lent invites us to help the needy and the stranger, that these basic virtues become second nature to us. Then we will be acting as “the finger of God” and promoting the kingdom of God in our world.

Recognising grace

Some were completely wrong about Jesus, seeing him as an agent of Satan. Instead of acknowledging God at work in Jesus, they declared that Satan was at work in his miracles. It is hard to conceive of a greater error than that. They were calling good evil. In response to their misjudgement, Jesus declared that his healing power is from the finger of God. We can all be blind to the finger of God, to the working of God among us.

We are all graced in some way with grace, or divine agency. We need to discover our potential as healers, able to heal others with the finger of God. Jesus saw the working of God in creation, in the sower, the vineyard, the flowers of the field and birds of the air. He saw God’s presence in people that others had written off. We need to see with generous and hopeful eyes. When we see with those kind of eyes, then, in the words of Paul, we will be inspired to give thanks in all circumstances.

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