Lenten Reflections 2021: Saturday, February 20, 2021
For most of my life, I have not had to care much about what I eat. My metabolism was pretty fast, and so I did not gain any weight. Moreover, my life was active, and so I tended by burn calories. I know that when some people watched me eat, they resented that I could eat so much and gain so little. All of that changed when I turned 50. Suddenly I had to pay attention to my diet. My metabolism slowed and my gut grew. It was a moment when I had to make a decision.
Have you ever heard your doctor say you need to lose a little weight? Or that you should do a little exercise? Or maybe your dentist suggests you could floss a little more? It is not always easy to be given the prescription for health. Sometimes we need to make drastic changes in our lifestyle for the sake of health.
As we continue with Isaiah today, we see that he gives us our prescription for health. And it is a reminder that we need to make drastic changes not only for our physical health, but also for our spiritual health. And the prescription can be challenging, even more challenging than other steps to health. What does Isaiah tell us to do?
“Remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” “Bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted.” If yesterday was about our lament of not being noticed, today we are challenged to recognize what it is we do not notice. Do we see the hungry? Can we identify the ways we oppress, we lie, we libel others? Can we allow ourselves to recognize the afflicted in a way that moves our hearts? Can we allow our eyes to be opened to become more attentive to those in need?
Because if we can, wow, what amazing things will happen. If we do see more clearly those in need and act to meet the needs of the hungry, the afflicted, the oppressed, and the falsely accused, they God will do amazing things for us. God will give plenty even when our lives are dry and barren. God will renew our strength even when we are worn out. God will make our lives as lush as a watered garden, with the waters of our baptism flowing like a spring that never fails. We will be able to build up what has fallen apart all because we act in a way that God wants us to act.
But to get to this point, we must examine our priorities. Do we call the sabbath a delight by attending Mass every Sunday? Do we make time to encounter God in prayer? Can we move from thinking that we know everything about how to live, to a way that reminds us that it is really God who knows best how we should live?
So often, it seems, at least to me, these types of changes occur when we can embrace self-reflection. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. Now I think this phrase has been misinterpreted a little. I do not thing Socrates is suggesting there is such a thing as a worthless life. Rather, I think he is suggesting the unexamined life simply is not worth it. The cost is too high. We must surrender too much to live the unexamined life. The gospel of Luke today gives us an encounter between Jesus and those who had to think about their lives in honest self-reflection. The irony of so many of these encounters is that it is those people whose lives are most broken who are able to see things so clearly for what they are. But if we are honest with ourselves, then we know that there is brokenness in our lives. There is suffering in our lives. We need to bring our brokenness before the Lord. And we do not need to worry about bringing brokenness to the Lord. “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” And that means there is a call from Jesus for you and me.